Rocket Carrying NASA Satellites Launched from Belly of a Jet

CYGNSS program will help scientists study hurricanes from space.

Orbital ATK L-1011
The Pegasus rocket carrying NASA's satellites was launched from this modified Lockheed airliner.NASA

A group of NASA satellites was successfully launched this morning in a rocket deployed from the belly of a modified airliner.

The Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket carrying the satellites, which NASA will use to study hurricanes from space, was deployed over the Atlantic at about 39,000 feet from its carrier aircraft, the L-1011 Stargazer. The rocket free-fell for five seconds before igniting its first stage and heading out of Earth’s atmosphere.

The L-1011, a modified Lockheed airliner, took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Pegasus rocket carried NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), a group of eight microsatellites that will allow researchers to study the strength of hurricanes using GPS technology. The satellites will orbit the Earth directly above the tropics, the area where hurricanes form, providing wind-speed data every few hours, according to NASA.

The launch was originally scheduled for earlier in the week, but a problem with a hydraulic system prevented deployment of the Pegasus rocket from the L-1011 on Monday. The launch was rescheduled for Wednesday but postponed after a software issue was discovered.

Today’s launch happened on schedule at 8:35 a.m.

Watch the Pegasus rocket deploy in the video below.