Launch of the UC Berkeley/NASA High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) spacecraft aboard an Orbital Sciences air-launched Pegasus XL vehicle has been postponed indefinitely, NASA announced yesterday (Tuesday, June 19).
NASA's Expendable Vehicle Program Office at the Kennedy Space Center has concluded that it would be prudent to wait until the board investigating the June 2 failure of the X-43A experimental plane, which was launched aboard a similar Pegasus XL vehicle, has released preliminary results and findings. This decision was reached in consultation with the Explorer Project at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. HESSI, whose total mission cost is $85 million, is the sixth Small Explorer (SMEX) spacecraft scheduled for launch under NASA's Explorers program.
Once the failure review board has completed its analysis, the conclusions can be evaluated to determine if any aspects are relevant to the Pegasus/HESSI vehicle. A final engineering review will begin at that time, after which a launch date can be established.
The Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft carrying the Pegasus/HESSI vehicle will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Thursday, June 21.