Stargazer Aircraft Carrying Pegasus XL Rocket Positioned for Takeoff

Backdropped by a twilight sky, Northrop Grumman's L-1011 Stargazer undergoes final preparations prior to its takeoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 1, 2019.
Backdropped by a twilight sky, Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer undergoes final preparations prior to its takeoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo Credit: USAF/Vanessa Valentine

A Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft is positioned for takeoff from the Skid Strip runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Takeoff is scheduled for 8:33 EDT tonight. Attached to the aircraft is a Pegasus XL rocket, carrying NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite.

Weather officials are predicting an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, with the primary concern revolving around precipitation.

After Stargazer takes off and reaches 39,000 feet, the Pegasus XL rocket will be released for launch. The 90-minute launch window opens at 9:25 p.m. EDT, and release is currently targeted for 9:30 p.m. EDT. The rocket will ignite five seconds after its release from Stargazer, boosting the ICON satellite to low-Earth orbit.

Once in orbit, ICON will study the interface between the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

Follow along on NASA TV for the live broadcast, starting at 9:15 p.m. EDT.

Teams Prepare for ICON Launch Tonight

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The company’s Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will launch tonight on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from the company’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft. The Stargazer will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:33 p.m. EDT.

The first launch attempt for ICON is 9:30 p.m. EDT. Follow live coverage here on the blog as well as on NASA TV and on the web at http://nasa.gov/live beginning at 9:15 p.m. EDT.

ICON Launch Moved Back 24 Hours

Due to weather in the area, NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to move the Pegasus XL and ICON launch 24-hours to October 10 at 9:30 p.m., with takeoff of the Stargazer L-1011 at 8:32 p.m.

NASA’s live broadcast will begin tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. on www.nasa.gov/live.

The teams are not working any issues.  The rocket, airplane and spacecraft are ready to launch tomorrow.  As always, safety of the crew and mission success are our main focus.

Pegasus, ICON Satellite Set to Launch Tomorrow

Live coverage of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) Prelaunch Mission Briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Representatives from NASA, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, and the University of California, Berkeley provided an overview of the ICON mission. ICON will launch on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from the company’s Stargazer L-1011 on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The ICON mission was managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite is set to launch from a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket – carried by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft – on Wednesday, Oct. 9, from the Skid Strip runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Once Stargazer is airborne and has reached the right altitude and location, the rocket will be released for launch.

Will Ulrich, launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, speaks to news media during a prelaunch mission briefing for NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), on Oct. 8, 2019, in the News Center auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

One thing to keep an eye on for tomorrow’s launch is the weather. With a cold front moving in and a forecast of scattered showers throughout the day, weather officials from the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are currently predicting a 30% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule and lightning rule.

“I wish I had some better news, but ultimately, we’re going to do our best with all the tools we have at our disposal to ensure that tomorrow’s launch – or potentially Thursday night’s launch – is as safe as possible,” said Will Ulrich, launch weather officer for the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, in Tuesday afternoon’s mission briefing.

The 90-minute launch window opens at 9:25 p.m. EDT on Oct. 9, with a targeted release at 9:30 p.m. If ICON is unable to launch tomorrow due to unfavorable weather conditions, the backup launch date is Oct. 10, with the same targeted release time.

“If we go to the backup day – hopefully we don’t need to have a 24-hour delay, but should we – conditions are going to be a little better,” said Ulrich. Thursday’s forecast shows less chance of rain, and weather conditions improve to a 60% chance “go” for launch.

Once ICON reaches orbit, it will study the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above.

Live launch coverage and countdown will begin at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 9 here on the blog, on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Learn more about NASA’s ICON mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/icon

NASA, Northrop Grumman Prepare for Launch of ICON

Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The company’s Pegasus XL rocket, containing NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), is attached beneath the aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and Northrop Grumman will hold a mission briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in preparation for the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. Tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website to watch the mission briefing live.

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, carrying a Pegasus XL rocket with the agency’s ICON satellite, will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip on Oct. 9. The launch window will be open from 9:25 to 10:55 p.m., with a targeted release at 9:30 p.m. Ignition of the Pegasus XL rocket will occur five seconds after release from the Stargazer.

ICON is designed to study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above.

Be sure to follow our blog for launch updates. Live launch coverage here and on NASA TV will begin at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Launch Week Arrives for ICON

The Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket, carrying NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), has arrived at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Oct. 1, 2019. The rocket is attached beneath the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft. ICON will study the frontier of space – the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer – or ICON – satellite is scheduled to launch Wednesday, Oct. 9, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ICON will be air-launched from a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket, carried by the company’s L-1011 aircraft, Stargazer. Launch is currently scheduled for 9:30 p.m. EDT.

Weather officials from the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Primary concerns are cumulous clouds and lightning. We’ll continue to provide weather and launch updates here on the blog, so be sure to check back in!

ICON Launch Now Targeted for Oct. 9

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Northrop Grumman L-1011 Stargazer aircraft lands on Oct. 19, 2018 at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A Pegasus XL rocket is attached to the underside of the aircraft with NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA and Northrop Grumman coordinated with the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range for an earlier launch date for the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. ICON is now targeted for launch on Oct. 9, 2019, aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.

ICON Launch Targeted for Oct. 10

Technicians extend the solar array on NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019.
Technicians extend the solar array on NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) during a deployment test inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 10, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

NASA and Northrop Grumman currently are preparing the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft and the Pegasus XL rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for ferry to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft on Oct. 1, 2019.

The launch has been rescheduled to Oct. 10, 2019, following the completion of a joint NASA/Northrop Grumman investigation into a Pegasus sensor reading that was not within normal limits during previous ferry and launch attempt flights. The cause of the issue is understood, and the flight hardware has been modified to address the issue.

Two L-1011 flights with Pegasus were conducted to verify the effectiveness of the modification with no issues. Functional tests are being performed on NASA’s ICON spacecraft, which utilizes Northrop Grumman’s LEOStar-2 platform, to ensure that the ICON spacecraft is ready for the upcoming integration activity, ferry flight and launch. As always, mission success for Pegasus and ICON is the top priority.

NASA’s ICON Analysis Underway at Vandenberg AFB

This illustration depicts NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite that will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above. Photo credit: NASA
This illustration depicts NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite that will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above.
Photo credit: NASA

On Monday, Nov. 19, Northrop Grumman flew the L-1011 Stargazer and Pegasus XL rocket carrying NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft back to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. On Nov. 20, Northrop Grumman completed the de-mate of Pegasus from the L-1011 and transported the rocket safely into the integration facility.

The Northrop Grumman/NASA team continues its investigation into the off-nominal data observed during the Nov. 7 launch attempt. Once the analysis is complete, a new launch date will be determined. ICON will launch out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The ICON spacecraft, which uses Northrop Grumman’s LEOStar-2 platform, is monitored at all times and remains healthy.

ICON to Return to Vandenberg AFB for Further Analysis

This illustration depicts NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite that will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above. Photo credit: NASA
This illustration depicts NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite that will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above.
Photo credit: NASA

NASA and Northrop Grumman have made the decision to fly the L-1011 Stargazer and Pegasus XL rocket carrying NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft back to its integration facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ferry flight will take place early next week. Returning to the environmentally-controlled integration facility allows the team to further investigate off-nominal data observed during the Nov. 7 launch attempt.

Once the investigation is complete, a new launch date will be determined. ICON will launch out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The ICON spacecraft, which uses Northrop Grumman’s LEOStar-2 platform, is monitored at all times and remains healthy.