Home Science Pegasus launch of NASA’s ICON delayed after scrubbed attempt

Pegasus launch of NASA’s ICON delayed after scrubbed attempt


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Pegasus XL rocket launches with CYGNSS spacecraft in December 2016.
Florida Today

The delays continue for a NASA mission that aims to study the interaction between Earth and space weather in the upper atmosphere.

Before 3 a.m. Wednesday, teams scrubbed a first attempt to launch a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carrying the $242 million Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission after it took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the belly of a carrier aircraft.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, which is responsible for the mission, said engineers “encountered an anomaly” and “off-nominal data” while flying the rocket to its drop zone about 100 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach.

“The team is evaluating the next launch attempt,” NASA said.

No new target date was immediately available, but the problem could not be resolved quickly enough to make a second attempt early Thursday. 

After that, the mission must stand down for other operations on the Eastern Range, and it was not immediately clear when the next opportunity would be or how long the review of Pegasus data might take.

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SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and Qatari communications satellite late next week, and is expected to test-fire the rocket’s engines this weekend. 

The Pegasus and ICON satellite arrived at the Cape on Oct. 19 after a ferry flight from the rocket’s home base at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, then targeting an Oct. 26 launch.

But during the ferry flight, sensors raised concerns about the electrical system that controls three fins on the three-stage rocket’s first stage.

Components were swapped out, and Northrop performed a nearly five-hour flight test on Oct. 28 to demonstrate the changes had worked.

[Don’t expect to see much of Pegasus XL rocket launch]

[Orion’s European propulsion module bound for Kennedy Space Center]

The mission was once scheduled to launch nearly a year ago, but was held up by issues with the rocket’s separation systems. 

Then in June, a ferry flight west to Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the original launch site, was aborted because of issues similar to those seen during the recent trip to the Cape.

The launch site change and NASA’s busy schedule of science missions, including the high-profile Parker Solar Probe, pushed the launch into the fall. 

The Pegasus is flying for the 44th time since 1990, but only the second time in five years.

Contact Dean at 321-917-4534 or jdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SpaceTeamGo.

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