NASA Launch Coverage

NASA's IBEX Launch Blog
 
NASA's IBEX spacecraft launched from an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Oct. 19, 2008 from the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

IBEX is the first NASA spacecraft to image and map the dynamic interactions taking place where the hot solar wind slams into the cold expanse of space.

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2:30 p.m. – Thanks for joining us for the coverage of the launch of NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission aboard a Pegasus rocket. The aircraft that carried the Pegasus and IBEX to the launch altitude has returned to Kwajalein safely as IBEX begins its two-year study of the far reaches of the solar system.

This concludes the launch coverage of IBEX. You can follow the mission as it develops on the NASA website, www.nasa.gov/ibex.

2:25 p.m. - IBEX rode smoothly into orbit aboard a Pegasus rocket launched from a modified L-1011 airliner. The launch took place over the Pacific Ocean near the atoll of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

2:20 p.m. – The Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission is under way as the IBEX spacecraft is on it own and operating properly.

The spacecraft will spend the next two years mapping the layer of space where the sun’s solar wind slams against the gases emanating from the rest of the universe.

2:05 p.m. - Launch controllers are waiting for confirmation that the IBEX spacecraft has separated from the third stage. As expected, the spacecraft is flying over an area where antennas cannot pick up its signals yet.

1:55 p.m. - IBEX has separated from the third stage and is flying on its own. All systems are operating as expected.

1:53 p.m. - The third stage engine has burned out and will separate momentarily.

1:52 p.m. - The third stage has ignited to send IBEX into its highly elliptical orbit.

1:51 p.m. – The second stage engine has burned out and separated as planned.

1:50 p.m. – The nosecone protecting the IBEX spacecraft has separated from the rocket as planned.

1:49 p.m. – The first stage of the Pegasus has burned out and separated from the rest of the rocket. Second stage is burning as planned.

1:48 p.m. – Drop and Launch! The Pegasus rocket and its IBEX spacecraft are falling free of the "Stargazer" L-1011 aircraft. The first stage has ignited and IBEX is on its way to space!

1:47 p.m. – One minute before launch. The IBEX mission has been given the "go" for launch.

1:45 p.m. – Three minutes until the Pegasus is dropped from the "Stargazer" L-1011.

1:40 p.m. – With eight minutes before launch, all conditions remain "green" for the IBEX mission to begin at 1:48 p.m.

1:36 – The final launch poll has been completed, clearing the way for the launch of the IBEX mission. The Pegasus rocket is on its own power supply.

1:35 p.m. – The Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center uses several types of rockets to send satellites into orbit. Along with the Orbital Sciences Pegasus being launched today, the LSP has employed Orbital Sciences' Taurus and the United Launch Alliance Delta II, and Atlas V rockets. The program launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

1:30 p.m. – The IBEX satellite is shaped like a stop sign. It has eight sides and is 23 inches high and 38 inches wide. For power, the spacecraft uses solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity.

The spacecraft carries two cameras configured to study the outer boundary of the solar system.

1:25 p.m. - All operations remain on track to launch the IBEX spacecraft at 1:48 p.m. The L-1011 called "Stargazer" is continuing toward the launch zone, also called a "drop box."

1:15 p.m. - The first Pegasus mission was launched in 1990. The rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, was dropped from a NASA B-52 aircraft. Flying the normal launch profile, the Pegasus fell for five seconds and then lit its first stage engine to soar toward space.

1:07 p.m. - The Kwajalein Missile Range was chosen for the launch so the Pegasus can take the most advantage of the energy from the rotation of the Earth. Kwajalein is closer to the equator than Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

1:05 p.m. - The Pegasus rocket will send the IBEX spacecraft into an orbit about 60 miles high. From there, IBEX will use a solid-fueled stage to boost the high point of its orbit to 200,000 miles. That orbit reaches almost 1,000 times higher than that of the International Space Station. The moon is 240,000 miles from the Earth.

1 p.m. - The IBEX launch team includes controllers working in Florida, California and at the Kwajalein Missile Range. It is the first time NASA's Launch Services Program has sent the launch team to Kwajalein for a launch since the program was based at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

12:51 p.m. - The L-1011 aircraft is taking off from Kwajalein. It will fly to an area north of the atoll to release the Pegasus rocket. It will also climb to an altitude of about 39,000 feet before launching the rocket. Launch remains scheduled for 1:48 p.m.

12:30 p.m. - The IBEX satellite will be the first to study the "termination shock" that marks the outer boundary of the solar system. It is an area where the solar wind generated by the sun meets with the turbulent gas from the rest of the universe. The two Voyager satellites and Pioneer are the only spacecraft to have traveled to the edge of the solar system.

12:22 p.m. - The L-1011 is taxiing to the end of the runway at Kwajalein.

The launch team will conduct a launch poll before the L-1011 carrier aircraft and Pegasus rocket take off.

12:20 p.m. - The Pegasus is a unique rocket for NASA because it is carried into the air for launch instead of lighting its engines on the ground.

The Pegasus uses a large delta-shaped wing to provide some of the lift during the first stage of flight as a solid-fueled engine lofts the payload toward space. IBEX will use three stages to reach its elliptical orbit today.

12:17 p.m. - Launch today is scheduled for 1:48 p.m. EDT. It will be a night launch because the Kwajalein launch site is so far away. The site is the Pacific Ocean east of Hawaii. Because Kwajalein is on the other side of the International Date Line, it is already Oct. 20 there.

Countdown preparations are continuing, but forecasters are watching rain on the runway at Kwajalein and there are storm cells nearby.

12:15 p.m. EDT - Welcome to coverage of the launch of NASA's Interstellar Background Explorer mission, also known as IBEX. The IBEX satellite will launch aboard a winged Pegasus rocket that will be dropped from a modified L-1011 airliner flying at 39,000 feet.

The launch will take place over the Pacific Ocean near an island called Kwajalein.

Once in space, the IBEX satellite will scan far out into space to determine how the area just beyond the solar system is changing.




Live Coverage Team
Blog Updates: Steve Siceloff
Site Updates: Elaine Marconi
Quality Control: Jeanne Ryba
Video Production: Alysia Lee
Video Capture/Editing: Michael Chambers