NASA Launches Successfully The 8-Satellite Constellation On Board The Pegasus XL Rocket
NASA's 8-Satellite Constellation was launched successfully on Thursday (Dec. 15) morning aboard the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's east coast. The rocket fired from a jet plane ignited its first-stage engine and rocketed toward space.
Tim Dunn, NASA's launch director, described the successful flight as beautiful. He further said that the rocket and satellites fared just as expected.
Meanwhile, Chris Ruf, the mission's lead scientist at the University of Michigan, was elated. He said that when the last two came off, it felt fantastic. He further said that they were right there where they were expecting, so it is good news.
The microsatellites of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission was launched to enhance the forecasting of hurricane's intensity by gauging the ocean surface wind speeds in the center of storms. It will utilize radio signals from the GPS satellites between 35 degrees north and 35 degrees south where most hurricanes occur, according to Space.com.
The launch was delayed since Dec. 12, 2016 due to hardware and weather issues. NASA officials said that the need for a spacecraft flight software patch also delayed plans for a Wednesday launch try. On the other hand, it was worth the wait as the CYGNSS was launched smoothly and ended up exactly where as the team hoped for.
Meanwhile, Christine Bonnuksen, CYGNSS program executive at NASA, said that NASA used the plane that was once an airliner to launch the microsatellite from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This is because it was inexpensive than the conventional, vertical launch.
Bryan Baldwin, The Pegasus launch vehicle program manager with Orbital ATK, also said that Pegasus rockets have been used successfully many times. He further said that another plus was the L-1011's twin hull, which is shaped in such a way that rockets are easier to fit into the plane. The CYGNSS mission is funded for two years and might be extended, according to USA Today.