Technical glitch postpones NASA satellite launch
by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Dec 12, 2016
A technical problem on Monday delayed the planned launch for at least 24 hours of a series of NASA satellites designed to study hurricanes, the US space agency said.
Orbital ATK's Stargazer L-1011 airplane took off as planned from Cape Canaveral with a rocket attached to its underside, but the in-air launch was foiled by a problem with the hydraulic system that appeared after takeoff.
"The hydraulic system in question was not for the L-1011 aircraft itself, but for the system that allows the Pegasus XL rocket to release from the aircraft," NASA said in a statement.
"That system was not meeting its prescribed pressures, indicating a problem with the hydraulic pump."
The Stargazer aircraft climbs to a height of 39,000 feet -- 10,000 feet higher than Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth -- before dropping the rocket, which then ignites its engines in mid-air and deploys the satellites.
After the problem was discovered, the aircraft returned to the Florida launchpad and engineers worked to resolve it in time for a repeat attempt, possibly as early as Tuesday morning.
"A new launch date will be determined once the crews evaluate the system," said a statement from Orbital ATK.
The Pegasus rocket is supposed to launch eight micro-satellites for NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System mission, or CYGNSS.
The satellites "will probe the inner core of hurricanes to learn about their rapid intensification," NASA said.
Current remote sensing technology is unable to peer past heavy rain in the inner core of a hurricane.
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