NASA Delays ICON Launch Due to Booster Problem

ICON spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

NASA and Northrop Grumman have postponed the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. ICON, which will study the frontier of space, was targeted to launch on a Pegasus XL rocket June 14 from the Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands.

During a ferry transit, Northrop Grumman saw off-nominal data from the Pegasus rocket. While ICON remains healthy, the mission will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for rocket testing and data analysis. A new launch date will be determined at a later date.

  • Ouch. Isn’t this the SECOND time they’ve had a serious delay because of the vehicle? Double ouch.

  • duheagle

    Pegasus doesn’t fly much. Perhaps this bird sat on a shelf too long and exceeded is sell-by date.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’d love to see how the L-1011 is faring these days. Can you imagine the cost and effort of keeping the last L-1011 going about a decade after the type was retired? How do you keep pilots currency in type up? You’d even have to keep the simulators going. Ouch! Virgin did one thing right, there’ll be 747-400’s galore for at least two decades to keep their carrier going.

  • Michael Halpern

    Plus likely some limited parts production (and parts commonality with successor) and maybe some after market part production, big advantage of using a successful product even if its being phased out, parts will not be hard to come by, and the 747 family has been the most successful family of commercial jet liners ever.

  • Michael Halpern

    Doesn’t fly much, carrier has to make a 3 point landing, its a complicated rocket, (3 stages and wings) and low production rate on its components, wonder if Stratolaunch is still excited to use it with all the problems ICON has had

  • rv

    Strato still needs a satellite to put on the 2 Pegasus they paid for. NASA has 4 satellite’s in this rocket’s class to be launched from 2021 on. L1011 stays busy for 7 more years. Clause in contract with Strato ensures NASA satellites launch on L1011.

  • windbourne

    Actually, the 737 has been the most successful. Started before 747, and will continue long after.

    Sadly, both 747 and 380 will be killed off due to airline foolishness.

  • windbourne

    50 million to fly 1 tonne into LEO vs 62 million to fly 23 tonnes. Guess who is going to win.

  • Michael Halpern

    well the 380 was built for hub and spoke, and direct flights sell better, 747 managed to find a bit of a sweet spot, between hub architecture and direct flights and they successfully made it valuable for air freight as well, to the point where even converted passenger birds are valuable. Problem is airlines want efficient planes and don’t want them to be slowed down more, that means a new air-frame at this point, also allows them to design in considerations for future iterations. 747 has still been massively successful though.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No different than some of the aircraft museum groups fly. Or the pair of WB-57s from the 1950’s NASA flies.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Well the last L-1011 flying doesn’t meet current noise regulations at most civilian airports. So it mostly operates from US gov’t airports.

    AFAIK the L-1011 got enough spare parts for at least 8 years according to one of the flight crew posting in the NSF forum. The engines was overhauled a few years ago, should last until they retired the L-1011 with it’s tiny annual flight time. Think he also posted that O-ATK got a L-1011 simulator.

    The 747 is not as well suited to dropping a Pegasus winged rocket as a tri-engine widebody jetliner. There is no place on the 747 airframe to mounted the Pegasus.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Thanks for that.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Don’t all B747 have a hard point on the wing for carrying an extra engine between maintenance depots?

    https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/24181/can-the-a380-ferry-an-extra-engine-like-the-747

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Yes. But cannot accommodated the winged Pegasus with a wingspan of 6.7 meters.

    Virgin Orbit converted and strengthen that hard point for their Launcher One smallsat launcher. Will be interesting to see the reduction in performance of the B747 from the asymmetrical drag cause by carrying a large and heavy object on one side of the aircraft.