What do you think is more important – a rocket launch or a landing of a Jet? Of course, the former would be everyone’s first priority, but this was not the site here when a jet carrier is having Pegasus rocket was returning to California. This L-1011 carrier aircraft stopped a satellite launch.
At Northrop Grumman, California, the carrier was sent to Kwajalein Atoll, on a two days flight. The aircraft was carrying Pegasus rocket which was being returned to the manufacturers since a technical defect was encountered. The rocket was to reach the Pacific Ocean for the launch on Friday for running a test. But because of this defect, it was sent back and caused a delay in the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON). It was earlier planned for June 14, 2018.
The rocket has been returned to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where tests will be conducted, and maintenance work will be done. After final testing, a new date of the launch can be finalised.
Pegasus is a civilian launcher, and US Army’s Reagan test Site has limited windows available for non-military operations. This delay caused by the technical error might not have been discussed as an issue if the availability of next possible date was assured. This slight variation can cost the launch, the possibility of being done in June. The next date may come next month or even later.
Pegasus XL rocket placed under the belly of an L-1011 jet carrier departed from California, and taking a break at Hickam Air Force base will reach Atoll after two days. The earlier plan was to take off from Kwajalein on Thursday, but the officers chose Friday for taking the rocket back to the base.
The ICON satellite is secured to the forward end of the 55-foot-long Pegasus rocket. ICON will be looking to link Earth’s atmosphere and space weather. With a size of a refrigerator, ICON weights around 600 pounds. The mission cost is about $252 million, and it is NASA’s first mission to study the influence of earth’s weather and climatic conditions on the ionosphere. Orbital ATK developed this rocket as they have been looking after Pegasus since 1990. ATK has conducted forty-three satellite launches and twenty-nine orbital missions. ICON would be the fifth Pegasus mission taking off from Kwajalein, but when, is the question raised.