Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket has carried a satellite designed to help NASA study the border between terrestrial and space weather as well as its potential impact on communications systems, people and technologies.
The company said Thursday its Stargazer L-1011 aircraft carried Pegasus as part of the launch’s first phase, after which the rocket ignited and sent the Northrop-built Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite to a 357.3-mile orbit.
ICON’s design is based on Northrop’s LEOStar-2 satellite bus and serves as the ninth Northrop-manufactured and launched science satellite for NASA. Previously, the agency certified the air-launched Pegasus rocket to carry its small satellites as a Category 3 vehicle.
Steve Krein, vice president of civil and commercial satellites at Northrop, said initial data show that ICON is “in good health and performing as expected.” He added that the company has been manufacturing satellites to support NASA missions over the past 35 years.
Northrop is working on the JPSS-2 and Lansat-9 satellites for NASA, which will operate as larger spacecraft based on the LEOStar-3 bus.