CAPE CANAVERAL FL: What is it like to be flying a jet just 1,500 feet away from an igniting rocket? Orbital ATK has flown their mobile L1011 Pegasus rocket-launching plane back to Cape Canaveral for the first time since a pair of launches in 2003. I had a chance to meet the flight crew and ask how the aircraft evades the Pegasus rocket.
The L1011 Stargazer takes off from Cape Canaveral on Monday December 12, 2016.
The Pegasus rocket system was developed by Orbital ATK to provide cost-effective access to space for the small satellite community. In this case, a small satellite is anything up to 1,000 pounds headed to Low-Earth Orbit. Their Stargazer jet is a modified Lockheed L1011 (pronounced L-Ten-Eleven) that is the last L1011 in operation. Back in the 1970’s, Eastern Airlines debuted the L1011 as a wide-body jet for carrying up to 400 passengers on transcontinental routes. Today, the last flying L1011 has just 19 seats, but added a three-stage solid rocket underneath the fuselage. The rocket has three fins, one of which is inserted into a slot in the fuselage of the airplane.
Taking a rocket as carry on luggage
The Pegasus rocket is strapped ...