Orbital Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, carrying NASA’s environmental research satellite constellation, took off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday.
This was the space agency’s third attempt at a launch. On Monday, a launch was cancelled as a result of an issue with the hydraulic pump. Another attempt, slated for Wednesday, was cancelled because of issues with software.
Pegasus Carrying Satellite Constellation to Help Understand Hurricanes
According to NASA Space Flight, the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System or CYGNSS is a constellation of eight satellites designed to help the space agency improve forecasting of hurricanes. It will help scientists predict the strength of a hurricane and calculate when it will make landfall. The project is a partnership between the University of Michigan, Southwest Research Institute and NASA.
The Pegasus XL Rocket, which will be carrying the constellation of satellites, was launched from the underbelly of the Stargazer aircraft. In contrast, regular satellite launches involve rockets being sent into space from a launch pad on the ground.
Pegasus Launched from Underbelly of Aircraft
The aircraft transported the rocket to a target drop zone over the Atlantic Ocean. The Pegasus was released at a height of 39,000 feet above sea level. Five seconds later, the Pegasus ignited its main rocket motor and two additional motors over the course of the flight. Maintaining the right altitude and orientation, the rocket will be deployed into the lower Earth orbit.