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Solar-Observation Satellite Boosted Into Orbit

L-1011 carrying a Pegasus rocket takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base

A Pegasus XL rocket — carrying a NASA solar observatory satellite — successfully deployed into space Thursday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

After launching under an aircraft from Vandenberg, the Pegasus — NASA’s only winged launcher — and its IRIS payload were carried to about 39,000 feet before being dropped to begin the launch.

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket separated from the L-1011 carrier aircraft shortly before 7:30 p.m., and made its way into Earth orbit.

The two-year IRIS mission, short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, will point a telescope at the interface region of the sun to improve understanding of how energy moves from the sun’s surface to the million degree outer atmosphere called the corona, according to NASA.

After the launch, NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn reported that the mission team had made initial contact with the IRIS spacecraft through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, and received good data in return.

The telescope was right on track and its solar arrays were deploying, Dunn said.

“We’ve got a very happy spacecraft on orbit and a thrilled launch team on the ground,” Dunn said.

The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg provided range, safety and weather support for the operation.

The launch, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed a day because of an issue with the base electrical power architecture.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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