Less than 15 Minutes until Launch

Pegasus XL mounted to L-1011 aircraft.
Pegasus XL mounted to L-1011 aircraft. Credit: NASA TV

The L-1011 “Stargazer” aircraft carrying the Pegasus XL rocket is beginning its second 180-degree course reversal. This turn will put the vehicle on the path to the drop point. The release mechanism for the rocket is armed and the CYGNSS spacecraft is on internal power.

Flight Termination System on Internal Power

The chase plane is visible below the Pegasus XL rocket in this image from a camera mounted to the underside of the L-1011.
The chase plane is visible below the Pegasus XL rocket in this image from a camera mounted to the underside of the L-1011. Credit: NASA TV

The rocket’s flight termination system has been transferred to internal power and verified to be working properly. This system would be used by the Eastern Range to end the flight if the rocket were to go off course.

L-1011 Reaches Deployment Altitude

The Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, with the Pegasus XL rocket clearly visible on its underside, cruises above the clouds.
The Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, with the Pegasus XL rocket clearly visible on its underside, cruises above the clouds. Credit: NASA TV

The L-1011 pilot has confirmed the aircraft has reached the deployment altitude of 39,000 feet. A recent survey of the Pegasus XL rocket on the belly of the plane, conducted from video filmed from the chase plane, revealed the vehicle to be in good shape.

After the CYGNSS Microsatellites Reach Orbit

Once CYGNSS reaches space today, the mission won’t begin right away. The microsatellites’ arrival in orbit kicks off a commissioning phase that could take up to two months. That time will be spent checking out each microsatellite’s subsystems, maneuvering them into their proper positions within the CYGNSS constellation, and ensuring that ground elements and the spacecraft themselves are ready to begin collecting science data.