Pegasus-XL Airborne Launch, Vandenberg AFB, CA

March 4, 1999, 18:57 PST

Evening airborne launch of Pegasus-XL missle dropped from a Lockheed L-1011 at 40,000 feet off the coast of California. The second stage can be seen igniting. The bright star under the trail is Venus with Saturn at the top. The faint star just above the contrail is Mercury.

Unfortunately, the NASA payload, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer or WIRE telescope and camera payload began spinning out of control after its second pass over a ground station. The payload is designed to study star formations.

Exposure: 30 seconds, f/3.5
Film: Fuji Superia 200
Lens: Tamaron 28mm-200mm f/3.5 at 28mm.
Location: Goleta, CA, 42 miles ESE of Vandenberg, AFB.

Additional exposures: 15 to 10 seconds.

Second stage continues to burn as the exhaust plume begins to grow in the upper atmosphere.

The exhaust plume continues to expand in a shape much different from plumes generated by Delta rocket launches.

Rocket engine quits; the faint red line in the center is the burn off as the rocket continues down range.

Rocket engine shuts down, the plume continues to expand and dimish. The center ball and line indicate the path and shutdown of the second stage.

Observers as far east as Arizona were able to view this spectacular launch.

All images are © 1998, Anthony Galván III.
Any use without written permission is strictly prohibited. For more information contact Tony Galván.