Spacecraft: Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences XL Rocket Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Launch Date: April 25, 2007 Launch Time: 1:26 p.m. PDT
Image left: Takeoff of the L-1011 carrier aircraft, Stargazer, with the Pegasus XL rocket and NASA's AIM spacecraft. Image credit: NASA
Air-Launched Pegasus Sends AIM on Its Way After a flawless countdown and flight, NASA's AIM spacecraft began its two-year mission to study Earth's highest clouds. The 430-pound satellite's ride into orbit was provided by a Pegasus XL rocket. Built by Orbital Sciences, the Pegasus is a unique vehicle that begins its flight secured to the underbelly of a modified L-1011 passenger jet known as "Stargazer." Once the L-1011 reached an altitude of 39,000 feet, the Pegasus was released for its 10-minute powered flight into space.