Launch of Pegasus XL Rocket Delayed

The delays continue for a NASA mission that aims to study the interaction between Earth and space weather in the upper atmosphere.

Before 3 a.m. Wednesday, teams scrubbed a first attempt to launch a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carrying the $242 million Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission after it took off from Cape Canaveral under the belly of a carrier aircraft.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, which is responsible for the mission, said engineers “encountered an anomaly” while flying the rocket to its drop zone about 100 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach.

“The team is evaluating the next launch attempt,” NASA said.

That could come as soon as 3:05 a.m. Thursday, near the opening of a 90-minute window. The weather forecast is good, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

After that, the mission loses the Eastern Range for an unspecified period, and it was not immediately clear when the next opportunity would be available.

SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and Qatari communications satellite late next week.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Florida Today, James Dean