Stargazer, Pegasus Rocket – Oh My!
Wow! I just had one heck of an incredible past few days all thanks to NASA! NASA, in association with OrbitalATK, launched the CYGNSS mission from a Pegasus rocket. So what do all those funny words mean? Ok… basically, a really cool little rocket named after a flying horse, was strapped to the bottom of an badass airplane which took off and flew to a predetermined zone over the ocean, was then dropped and shot off into orbit! Because… #Science! Phew!
The reason behind all this awesome science: Inside the Pegasus rocket were eight little CYGNSS satellites that are now circumnavigating the planet to aid in some much needed Earth science research! They’ll work by by getting much clearer emergency weather data from tropical storms and hurricanes all around the world – and a lot quicker, too! CYGNSS will cover the entire globe within 24 hours, but will now only take 7 hours to return the data!
A few days prior to launch, we were all brought to the skid strip to have a very close and personal look at Stargazer and Pegasus. We walked around the Stargazer and even have a look inside.
I was squealing like a little girl… Looking at this plane was incredibly cool for me… There was this old school boarding staircase that I just needed to wander up – For some reason I felt like the Jackie Kennedy walking up it!
And, I thought it was really cool that the inside of the Stargazer has so much room, that it could become the absolute BEST party plane in the world! Just look at it – so spacious!
So why the heck did an airplane have a rocket strapped to the bottom of it? Well, there’s a few reasons – First, these are pretty small satellites and second, small satellites only require a small rocket launch which makes it heaps more economical – so it was a win-win for a Stargazer Pegasus launch!
Now, what makes the CYGNSS launch so special is because this is the very first time the Stargazer took off from Cape Canaveral with a payload. Just to really hit home what happened: The Stargazer airplane lifted-off from the US Airforce skid strip with the PEGASUS rocket strapped under it – yes a rocket… an actual rocket with rocket fuel.What I thought was pretty cool was the little terminal at the end of the runway! The skid strip has an actual tower and terminal! And wouldn’t you believe it, they even have a red tarmac for VIP’s to walk on! I was pretty chuffed to have my dirty old Cons grace the red ground!
This launch required me to wake up at two in the morning. To put this in perspective, it takes something pretty awesome for me to get up at such a crazy hour… but it was space and NASA and it’s awesome so, I armed myself with seriously bad American coffee and drove to the cape.
I got my press badge at 4am and then drove to the press center which is around the corner from the Vehicle Assembly Building. You can actually see it from the parking lot! We boarded the busses and presto! …headed out to the runway.
The Stargazer was looking to depart from the runway early that morning fog pending… and the fog was thick… Luckily, the fog cleared enough for the pilots to ok the take off.
Ok, so this is where the drama happened because there were two things going on. After the take off of the Stargazer and the F18 chaser jet, they discovered there were massive rainclouds just waiting to drop buckets. The Pegasus cannot launch in rain. Secondly, the hydraulics just weren’t working so they couldn’t drop the Pegasus rocket and yes, they tested them repeatedly on ground.. it just wasn’t happening in the air.
The poor little Stargazer had to return to base; the mission was scrubbed for now.
They flew in a spare part from Mojave California, and after a few more days of testing, the Stargazer was ready to try once more! So, here we go again! Another 2am wake up call for an early morning launch with the photography gang all here!
After the take off, we headed back to NASA’s Press Center and hey, presto! The launch was a success! We now have eight little satellites reporting on some much needed Earth science! Now, that’s pretty cool science.
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An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!
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