Skip Top nav bar link group topnav end piece go to business section go to education section go to history section go to gallery section go to news section go to organizations section go to research section go to search engine go to site index topnav end piece
NASA Meatball NASA Dryden Pegasus Movies banner
Pegasus air launch from L-1011

Pegasus air launch from L-1011

Movie Number   EM-0024-02
Movie Date   August 12, 2003
Formats   160x120 QuickTime Movie (1.3 MB)
320x240 QuickTime Movie (2.6 MB)
480x320 QuickTime Movie (3.9 MB)
640x480 QuickTime Movie (6.5 MB)
Pegasus Still photos of this aircraft are available in several resolutions at

This 36 second movie clip shows the Pegasus® launch vehicle being released from the L-1011 carrier aircraft, ignition of its solid rocket motor, and then the beginning of the long climb to orbit.

A group of industry entrepreneurs approached Dryden in the late 1980's about using the Center B-52 to help them test a new and potentially more cost-effective way of launching small payloads into orbit. Under the sponsorship of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Orbital Sciences Corporation had developed an air-launched rocket-booster system named Pegasus in which the launch aircraft would replace the first stage of what would otherwise have been a four-stage launch system.

The launch aircraft would release a winged booster rocket at an altitude of close to 40,000 feet. It was a three-stage, solid-propellant rocket. The final rocket stage carried the 1,500-pound payload into orbit. Orbital Sciences teamed with the Hercules Corporation for manufacture of the rocket motors and Scaled Composites for the booster system wing. But the vehicle still needed a suitable launch aircraft and, with its custom launch pylon, the Dryden B-52 was a logical choice.

Dryden research pilots carried the first Pegasus aloft under the B-52 wing in April 1990. The launch was successful, and it marked one of the first times a commercial company had successfully launched a payload into Earth orbit. Five additional launches between 1990 and 1994 were also successful, opening a door not only to potentially less expensive but also to nongovernmental access to space. Later, commercial launches of the Pegasus used an Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft to launch the Pegasus.

Keywords   Pegasus; Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia; Hercules Aerospace Company; PHYSX; Hyper-X; Advanced Research Projects Agency; ARPA; Scaled Composites of Mojave, California; B-52; NB-52B; L-1011
Skip bottom nav bar link group Business | Education | History | Gallery | News Room | Organizations | Research | Search | Site Index

   Last Modified: February 20, 2004
   Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
   Curator: PAO Webmasters

   NASA Website Privacy Statement