Pegasus Launch Alert: California & SW U.S.

Brian Webb (
Sun, 28 Feb 1999 23:38:31 -0500

			       Brian Webb, KD6NRP
			   Ventura County, California
       Web Page: http ://

					     1999 February 28 (Sunday) 10:50 PST

			 Satellite Launch Monday Night
Weather permitting, a missile launch scheduled for Monday, March 1st should be
visible across most of California and as far away as Reno, Nevada; Saint George,
Utah; and Tucson, Arizona.

Orbital Sciences Corp. will launch a Pegasus XL missile from an L-1011 flying
off of California's central coast. Following release, the Pegasus should head
due south and gradually climb. Several minutes later, NASA's WIRE satellite will
be placed into a polar orbit.

The launch is scheduled for 18:57 PST, but can occur at any time during the
18:51-19:02 PST launch window.

Observers near the California coast should see what appears to be a distant
light moving from north to south. The light may slowly pulsate in brightness.
The smoke trail should be visible visible due to illumination from the full

Last-minute countdown status can be obtained by calling the 30th Space Wing
Public Affairs office at 805-606-3595. The office should be manned from 18:00
PST Tuesday to 19:30 PST Monday.


			     Vandenberg Launch Nets

If the weather is clear in Santa Barbara or Ventura County on Monday night, ham
radio operators in southern California are planning on running two nets to pass
along countdown status and discuss the launch.

The primary Vandenberg Launch Net will be convened on the 147.000 MHz Santa
Barbara repeater (131.8 Hz PL, +600 KHz offset) beginning at 18:30 PST. Net Con-
trol will be Brian, KD6NRP.

A parallel HF (shortwave) Vandenberg Launch Net will be held on 3,815.5 KHz
(LSB) beginning at 18:30 PST. Net Control will be Dan, AC6NZ.

			  Pegasus XL/WIRE Launch Data
				 Flight Events
			Time      Latitude    Longitude   Altitude
    Event             (min:sec)     (N)          (W)       (ft.)

Release                 00:00      36 00 00   123 00 00   039,000
				   36.00      123.00

Stage 1 Ignition        00:05      36 00 00   123 00 00   039,000
				   36.00      123.00

Stage 1 Burnout         01:16      --------   --------    -------

Stage 1/2 Separation    01:32      --------   --------    -------

Stage 2 Ignition        01:32      34 58 12   123 10 48   233,912
				   34.97      123.18

Stage 2 Burnout         02:43      32 45 00   123 36 36   576,698
				   32.75      123.61

Stage 2/3 Separation    07:22      --------   ---------   -------

Stage 3 Ignition        07:33      --------   ---------   -------

Stage 3 Burnout         08:40      --------   ---------   -------

				Launch Azimuth

The launch azimuth will be 188 degrees from true north. The vehicle will fly a
north to south path.


1. Latitude, longitude, and altitude data was not available for all events.
2. The data for Stage 2 Ignition and Burnout was obtained this week from Orbital
   Sciences Corp. and is specific to the Peagasus XL/WIRE launch.
3. The time, latitude, longitude, and altitude data for the other mission events
   is generic data from Orbital Sciences Corp. documentation. OSC told me that
   the data applies to this launch.


				 Viewing Sites

The best place to see the launch will be Santa Barbara County. Information on
the two best sites is given below.

Cement Water Cistern
East Camino Cielo
Santa Barbara County
Latitude    34 deg. 30 min. 57 sec. (34.5158) north
Longitude: 119 deg. 46 min. 43 sec. (119.7786) west
Elevation: 3,000 ft.

 1. Drive to the intersection of U.S. 101 and state highway 154 (in the north
    end of Santa Barbara).
 2. Take state highway 154 north (towards San Marcos Pass and Lake Cachuma).
 3. At intersection of 154 and East Camino Cielo, turn right onto East Camino.
 4. You should pass a U.S. Forest Service fire station and a general store.
 5. Continue uphill for about five or six miles.
 6. When you see a cement water cistern on your left, carefully park you car.
		   These mountain roads are very dangerous.
		   Pay close attention to your driving. If
		   you decide to view the launch from the
		   top of the water tank, be careful! There
		   is no railing and you could easily fall
		   off and be injured or killed.

Santa Ynez Peak
Santa Barbara County
Latitude:   34 deg. 31 min. 36 sec. (34.5266) north
Longitude: 119 deg. 58 min. 45 sec. (119.9792) west
Elevation: 4,200 ft.

 1. Drive to the intersection of U.S. 101 and Refugio Road (this is several
    miles north of Santa Barbara and near Refugio State Beach).
 2. Take Refugio Road east (uphill).
 3. Continue driving for several miles several miles.

		   These mountain roads are very dangerous.
		   Not paying attention to your driving for
		   only a second could get you killed! Watch
		   out for ice and loose gravel on the road
		   and be very careful when you back up your

 4. When you're near the top of the mountain range, you'll see a sign for the La
    Sherpa Retreat.
 5. A the top of the ridge there's a T-intersection and a small road that heads
    to the right (east). The road has a sign that says "This road not maintained
    by Santa Barbara County." 
 6. Turn right (east) onto the road with the "This road not maintained..." sign.
 7. Continue uphill for several miles and pass the small observatory. Keep going.
 8. You'll see a mountain with numerous antennas about 1 mile east of the observ-
    atory. That's Santa Ynez Peak.
 9. Drive up the short road to the antenna towers.
10. Park near the propane tank on the west side of the summit.

Other observing sites in southern California include:

Del Cerro Park
Rancho Palos Verdes

Spanish Hills

		   The following is an edited version of a
		   NASA news release regarding the WIRE mis-

	    Wide-Field Infrared Explorer To Survey Starburst Galaxies
Release 99-25                                                  February 23, 1999

One of NASA's smallest spacecraft, scheduled for launch March 1, will tackle a
very big cosmic question: What is the history of star-formation in the Uni-

NASA's first new spacecraft in the Origins Program, the Wide-Field Infrared Ex-
plorer (WIRE), is scheduled for launch at 10 p.m. EST on March 1 from Vandenberg
Air Force Base (AFB), CA.

The four-month mission will help understand how and when galaxies formed, and
the subsequent history of star-formation in the Universe. Answers to these ques-
tions will shed a strong light on the very nature of the Universe. 

"In many ways this inaugural mission of NASA's Origins Program, which will study
the birth of star-forming galaxies, will move us towards our ultimate goals,"
said Dr. Harley Thronson, acting director of the Astronomical Search for Origins
science theme at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.  "One of the Origins Pro-
gram's long-term goals is to understand the formation of not only the Universe,
but the galaxies and stars we see everywhere in the cosmos.  WIRE will provide
us with a wealth of information, which will get us closer to understanding how
the Universe could reach the point of forming Sun-like stars and Earth-like
planets. And, WIRE will do that at a very modest cost."

"Our science team will measure how densely filled the Universe has been with
star-forming galaxies during its history, and how quickly those galaxies have
been forming stars," said WIRE Principal Investigator Perry Hacking of Vanguard
Research, Inc., Fairfax, VA; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena,
CA; and a professor at El Camino College, Torrance, CA.  "WIRE also 
will conduct a search for powerful, dusty quasars in the very early Universe,
shortly after the Big Bang.  If found in significant numbers, these quasars will
carry strong implications about the age and structure of our Universe."

Additional WIRE science investigations will include detailed inventories of some
star-forming regions in our own Milky Way galaxy; searches for small, substellar
objects called 'methane dwarfs,' which are essentially more massive versions of
the planet Jupiter; searches of nearby stars for leftover debris from planet
formation; a more complete inventory of the asteroid belt, and much more.

The 561-pound (254-kg) spacecraft will be launched from Vandenberg AFB on a Peg-
asus-XL launch vehicle built by Orbital Sciences Corporation.  The launch ve-
hicle is a three-stage, solid-propellant booster system carried aloft by a Lock-
heed L-1011 jet aircraft.  The system will be released when the aircraft reaches
an altitude of about 40,000 feet (12,200 meters).

The WIRE instrument consists of a 12.5-inch (30-centimeter) aperture Cassegrain
telescope with no moving parts and a field of view about the size of the full
moon. The telescope is enclosed within a two-stage, state-of-the-art, solid-
hydrogen cryostat, which will keep the instrument's mirrors cooled to below
-436 F.

The cryostat is designed like a thermos bottle, using a vacuum space between
layers of insulation, and uses the sublimation (the direct transition from a
solid to a gas) of frozen hydrogen to cool the telescope. The telescope must be
cold so that its own heat emission doesn't overwhelm the light that it is trying
to detect from space. 

The WIRE observatory will be inserted into an orbit with an altitude of 340
miles (540 km) above the Earth, and will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes.

The WIRE observatory was integrated into a three-axis-stabilized spacecraft de-
signed, built, and tested by the SMEX Project Team at Goddard.  The telescope
assembly is provided to Goddard by JPL.  After an initial checkout period of
thirty days on orbit, scientific operations will be coordinated by JPL through 
the science operations center at IPAC.

The WIRE Project website is located at:

The WIRE science website is located at:

------------------------------------- END --------------------------------------