NASA likely to relocate delayed Pegasus launch of ICON to Florida

A Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket, carried underneath a modified L-1011 airplane, departed Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on June 6 on the way to Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The rocket and carrier jet returned to Vandenberg on June 8 after engineers encountered a technical problem with the launch vehicle during the ferry flight. Credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

NASA and Northrop Grumman are expected to base the launch of an air-dropped Pegasus rocket with a NASA science satellite from Cape Canaveral later this year, after originally trying to get the mission into space from a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The space agency has not announced the move, but three officials involved in the mission said the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer — ICON — a small satellite instrumented to study the link between weather on Earth and conditions at the edge of space, is expected to shift from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean to Cape Canaveral.

The air-launched rocket was supposed to send the ICON satellite into orbit June 14. The Pegasus XL rocket was to take off from a U.S. military airfield on Kwajalein Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean around 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, under an L-1011 carrier jet, then drop from the belly of the aircraft and fire into orbit.

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