NASA Scrubs Launch of Microsatellite Trio

NASA Scrubs Launch of Microsatellite Trio
An artist's impression of the three ST5 micro-satellites being deployed in orbit around Earth. (Image credit: NASA)

A lastminute glitch forced flight controllers to scrub the Wednesday launch of three NASAmicrosatellites and their Pegasus rocket Wednesday.

The launchabort occurred less than two minutes before NASA's SpaceTechnology 5 mission was set to rocket spaceward from its mothership, an L-1011 jet aircraft, 39,000 feet (11,887 meters) in sky. A locking pindesigned to hold the mission's Pegasus booster to the parent jet'sundercarriage failed to release before the rocket's fin batteries ran out, preventingits planned 9:25 a.m. EST (1425 GMT) launch, NASA officials said.

"That'sgoing to be a 48-hour delay for us at least to change out the fin batteries,"said Omar Baez, NASA's assistant launch director at the mission's VandenbergAir Force Base takeoff point in California.

However, anofficial flight date remains to be determined while engineers determine why thelocking pin stuck and an available launch date is selected, mission managerssaid.

"We don'tknow how long the postponement will be at this point," said NASA launchcommentator George Diller after the scrubbed space shot.

NASA'sSpace Technology 5 mission is part of the agency's NewMillenium program to develop and test new technologies for futurespacecraft.

Each of themission's three, cake-sized probes weighs 55 pounds (25 kilograms) and carrysix technologies to be tested, ranging from a new microthruster for orientationto a skin-like radiator and software for autonomous ground operations.

The probesalso each carry a boom-mounted instrument that will be deployed after launch tostudy the effect of space weather on the Earth's magnetosphere, missionscientists said. The $130 million mission is slated to last about 90 days, NASA said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.