This past Tuesday and Thursday, I had the opportunity to witness the product of some great collaboration at Vandenberg Air Force Base. IRIS, which stands for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, is NASA's latest mission aimed at exploring our sun.
Tuesday was purely a day for the press, starting off with pre-launch briefings with some of the great people involved in the mission from NASA, Orbital Sciences, and Lockheed Martin. It was a great opportunity to really get a grasp for the importance of this mission. By far the best part of the day was getting escorted out to the runway to see Orbital Sciences' L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft with the Pegasus XL rocket that housed IRIS. We were also able to tour the interior of the aircraft.
The L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft with the Pegasus XL rocket fitted beneath.
Stargazer and Pegasus preparing for takeoff.
After being delayed a day due to a power outage at Vandenberg, the launch resumed on Thursday. I was fortunate enough to be on the flightline for the takeoff of the F-18 chase plane and Stargazer. It was a beautiful early evening with beautiful light as the pair took off and headed out over the ocean where Pegasus was then launched.
The L-1011 aircraft with the F-18 chase plane taxiing just before takeoff.
The L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft taking off at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
You can follow the IRIS mission and view footage from the launch here.