Pegasus flies again, placing new hurricane-spotting eyes into orbit

Pegasus, the world’s first commercially-developed rocket dating back to 1990, does not fly very often, but when it does it’s rather special — not only is it a commercial launch vehicle, but it’s the world’s only air-launched orbital rocket.  On a typical flight, it is carried to the launch site on the belly of a customized L-1011 Lockheed Tristar — itself something of a rarity, as Lockheed’s entry into the widebody market was shortlived, and most have now retired — this is one of only eight Tristars still in operation.  This one is named Stargazer, and this is its first launch while wearing the new Orbital ATK livery.

The payloads for this flight is a set of eight microsatellites called CYGNSS (no relation to the Cygnus spacecraft, which of course Orbital ATK also builds and operates), which will be operated by NASA to study hurricane formation, gathering data currently only available by daring flights into the eyes of hurricanes by P-3 Orion crews.

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