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NASA Selects Orbital’s Pegasus Rocket to Launch ICON Ionospheric Science Satellite

Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded the company a contract for its Pegasus® rocket to launch the space agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) scientific satellite into low Earth orbit. With the selection of Orbital’s air-launched Pegasus rocket, NASA is again turning to Orbital to provide both the satellite and launch vehicle for an important science mission based on advanced and cost-effective smaller space systems.

In 2013, NASA selected Orbital to design, build and test the ICON satellite. The spacecraft is now starting production at Orbital’s Dulles, VA satellite design, manufacturing and testing facilities. The launch of ICON aboard Pegasus will take place in mid-2017 from the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Island near the equator in the mid-Pacific Ocean area.

“We are very pleased that NASA continues to recognize the value of the Pegasus space launch vehicle to support smaller-size and cost-effective science missions,” said Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group. “Our Pegasus team is now working on two upcoming missions, including ICON and the CYGNSS launch that is scheduled for late 2016.”

Orbital has provided both the satellite and launch vehicle for numerous previous NASA scientific missions, which have provided scientists around the world with critical data in the fields of Earth science, heliosphysics and astrophysics. The most recent example of this dual capability occurred in mid-2012, when Orbital launched the company-built Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite aboard a Pegasus rocket. Other past examples of the pairing of an Orbital satellite and rocket for NASA science missions include the IBEX, AIM, SORCE, GALEX and RHESSI projects, all of which were launched aboard Pegasus rockets in the 2002-2008 period.