Orbital Launches NASA’s HETE 2 Bird
Launch managers at Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] were all smiles Oct. 9 when its Pegasus rocket successfully launched NASA’s High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE 2) satellite into its targeted orbit. The mission originated from the Kwajalein Missile Range, a U.S. Army installation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The mobility of Orbital’s launch vehicle is proving to be a competitive contender within the tight launch market. “With the addition of Kwajalein to the list of sites from which the Pegasus rocket has been launched, it is now the only space launch vehicle ever to be launched from six separate sites around the world,” said David Thompson, Orbital’s chairman and CEO.
At 12:45 a.m. EDT, the company’s L-1011 Pegasus carrier aircraft took off from the island and flew to the launch point over the Pacific Ocean. The Pegasus rocket was released at approximately 1:40 a.m. EDT. Eleven minutes later, the rocket deployed the satellite into its orbit. Preliminary information indicates that the main operating systems are going as planned in these early mission stages.
The 275-pound HETE 2 bird, built by a team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, carries three scientific instruments that will examine deep space for powerful explosions of gamma ray bursts. This research, scientists hope, will help discover the structure and formation of the early universe.