Launch of a Pegasus XL rocket. Credit: NASA.
Wanna see a unique rocket launch? We’ve got one coming right up later today, when NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) takes to the skies.
But this isn’t any ordinary rocket launch; CYGNSS will deploy from the belly of a specially designed L-1011 aircraft Stargazer on an Orbital ATK Pegasus-XL rocket deployed off the shores of the Florida Space Coast this afternoon. Made up of a compliment of eight satellites, CYGNSS will monitor how tropical cyclones form from low Earth orbit. Another notable mission – the NuSTAR X-Ray observatory — launched in a similar fashion from Kwajalein Atoll, but to our knowledge, this is the first air-launched satellite deployment from the Space Coast in recent memory. The mission attempted to launch on Monday, December 12th, but was plagued by weather concerns and a hydraulic issue. Flying out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, CYGNSS is targeting a one hour launch window starting at 13:21 Universal Time (UT)/8:21 AM EST. NASA TV will go live with a pre-launch program at 11:00 UT/6:00 AM EST, and the webcast covering the launch with commentary starts at 12:00 UT/7:00 AM EST.
Targeting a 35 degree inclination orbit, we’ll note sighting opportunities for CYGNSS on Twitter (we’re @Astroguyz) once the mission is in orbit and U.S. Joint Space Operations Command (US JSpOC) publishes orbital elements. We should get some great views from NASA’s F-18/A Hornet chase plane as well… now, there’s a job we want, as a jet fighter pilot for NASA…
Go Pegasus, go CYGNSS… Don’t miss the launch this afternoon!