Pegasus II, unlike Pegasus I, is a very complex and dense payload, which weighed in at 4200 grams, or 9lbs 4oz, and is contained in the volume of 1 cubic foot. We run full integration tests the day before launch to ensure the entire system is in proper working order. Only then are we ready for transport to the launch site.
Once we get to the launch site and setup, another set of tests are run to ensure the entire system is normal. Only then is the team ready to move the ground station to its field position and craft onto the flight line for launch. This is where we were on Feb 23, 2016.
The team approached the flight line with the assembly train of Pegasus II, i.e., meteorological balloon (8.5 feet in diameter), emergency parachute, drogue parachute, and the craft. The team was in the process of removing any slack downwind of the balloon, and only seconds for launch. Then it happened…the craft autonomously performed 2 critical flight operations, DSR (Delivery System Release), and MPD (Main Parachute Deployment) and the mission was scrubbed. If you signed up for SMS flight notifications, you got these text messages from Pegasus II.
The team is investigating the cause, and preliminary indications show an abnormal air pressure sensor reading that may have caused Pegasus II to consider itself in a dangerous situation and it acted to save itself. Further analysis is required to determine the exact circumstances and reason for the craft’s execution of DSR and MPD.
These launches require an enormous effort by the team in preparation and execution to get a very sophisticated craft airborne and operationalized. We may be disappointed in yesterday’s scrub, but certainly not demoralized. The team will move as quickly as possible to identify and remediate the issue and return to launch Pegasus II and deliver this unique user experience from near space as soon as feasible.
Many thanks for everyone’s support, we are as committed as ever.
Photos from launch site