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NASA set to launch satellite using L-1011 jet


NASA’s latest satellite research mission, to study black holes and other galactic objects, will launch later this week using a relatively new method. Rather than using a ground-based rocket to lob the satellite into orbit, NASA will use its Pegasus XL rocket, released from the bottom of a Lockheed L-1011 jet flying high over the Pacific Ocean. NASA says the procedure is less expensive than launching from the ground, since at 40,000 feet, where the Pegasus XL will be launched, there is slightly less gravity to overcome. The rocket will free-fall horizontally for several seconds after separating from the belly of the L-1011 before igniting the first of three stages. After just 13 minutes, the NuSTAR satellite will be in its final low-earth orbit, 340 miles above the surface. The satellite is carrying an X-ray telescope with a 33-foot image-focusing boom that will deploy once in orbit.