IBEX begins its outer solar system mission
The U.S. space agency’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft was successfully launched from near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the spacecraft was deployed from an L-1011 aircraft about 125 miles from the atoll and then carried into orbit by a Pegasus XL rocket in the initial step toward becoming the first spacecraft to image and map interactions taking place in the outer solar system.
The spacecraft separated from the Pegasus rocket at 1:53 p.m. EDT Sunday, NASA said, and immediately began powering up components necessary to control onboard systems.
“After a 45-day orbit raising and spacecraft checkout period, the spacecraft will start its exciting science mission,” said mission manager Greg Frazier at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“IBEX will build an image of the outer boundary of the solar system from impacts on the spacecraft by high-speed particles called energetic neutral atoms,” the space agency said, noting the region is important to study because it shields many of the dangerous cosmic rays that would flood the space around Earth.