DULLES, Va., 12 June 2012. Space technology company Orbital Sciences Corp.’s (NYSE:ORB) Pegasus rocket, which will launch NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite, has arrived at its launch site in the mid-Pacific Ocean.
Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 carrier aircraft completed a 4,200 nautical-mile ferry flight, including a refueling stop at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. The Stargazer is now at the Reagan Test Site airfield on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, from which the NuSTAR launch will originate.
“The ferry flight was completed smoothly with no issues or concerns,” says a NASA spokesperson. “The L-1011 flew through the launch-day "drop box" that included the racetrack pattern the aircraft will fly prior to releasing the Pegasus for launch, allowing ground controllers to test and verify the communications links between the aircraft and Kwajalein. A countdown dress rehearsal is planned for June 9. The launch of the NuSTAR telescope remains on schedule for June 13.”
The launch is scheduled for 13 June at approximately 11:30 a.m. (EDT), subject to final pre-launch testing and acceptable weather conditions at the time of launch.
During its mission, NuSTAR will use high-energy x-rays to detect black holes and other energetic phenomena in the universe. NuSTAR, having more than one hundred times the sensitivity of previous instruments used to detect black holes, will be the first focusing hard x-ray telescope in space, says a spokesperson.
For the NuSTAR mission, Orbital staff is providing the spacecraft platform, performing overall system integration, and conducting the launch operations with its Pegasus air-launched rocket.
The NuSTAR satellite project is is part of NASA’s Small Explorer (SMEX) series, managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The Pegasus, a patented air-launch system for the deployment of small satellites into low-Earth orbit, is launched from beneath Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 carrier aircraft over the ocean.