Orbital Sciences cleared to air launch new observatory

SpaceX cleaned up on public relations last month with the successful launch of their Falcon 9 booster and Dragon spacecraft. But if everything goes right, another new space firm, Orbital Sciences, will be launching a Pegasus rocket from its signature flying launch pad today or morrow. On board, NASA’s NuStar high energy observatory:

Company Site — Orbital’s The L-1011 “Stargazer” aircraft will depart from the Ronald Reagan Test Facility on Kwajalein Atoll approximately one hour prior to the targeted launch time. Following a pre-planned flight path, the Pegasus rocket will be released at approximately 39,000 feet and first stage ignition will occur approximately five seconds later. The powered flight sequence for the NuSTAR mission is expected to take just over 13 minutes, from the time the Pegasus rocket is released to the time that the satellite is separated from the rocket’s third stage and is deployed into orbit.

During its mission, NuSTAR will use high-energy x-rays to detect black holes and other energetic phenomena in the universe with the purpose of expanding our understanding of the origins and destinies of stars and galaxies. NuSTAR will have more than one hundred times the sensitivity of previous instruments to detect black holes and will be the first focusing hard x-ray telescope in space.

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