On April 5, 1990, Orbital began a new era in commercial space flight when our Pegasus rocket was launched for the first time from beneath a NASA B-52 carrier aircraft in a mission that originated from Dryden Flight Research Center in California. In the decades since its maiden flight, Pegasus has become the world's standard for affordable and reliable small launch vehicles. It has conducted 41 missions, launching over 80 satellites.
The three-stage Pegasus is used by commercial, government and international customers to deploy small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit. Pegasus is carried aloft by our "Stargazer" L-1011 aircraft to approximately 40,000 feet over open ocean, where it is released and then free-falls in a horizontal position for five seconds before igniting its first stage rocket motor. With the aerodynamic lift generated by its unique delta-shaped wing, Pegasus typically delivers satellites into orbit in a little over 10 minutes.
This patented air-launch system reduces cost and provides customers with unparalleled flexibility to operate from virtually anywhere on Earth with minimal ground support requirements. Pegasus launches have been conducted from six separate sites in the U.S., Europe and the Marshall Islands, the first time a space launch vehicle has demonstrated such operational flexibility.
World's first privately developed space launch vehicle
Maiden 1990 mission marked the first all-new, unmanned space launch vehicle developed in the U.S. in more than 20 years
First winged vehicle to accelerate to eight times the speed of sound
First air-launched rocket to place satellites into orbit, using its carrier aircraft as an "air breathing reusable first stage"
Quick Facts World's leading small launch vehicle
41 missions conducted; flawless record since late 1996
Launches conducted from California, Virginia, Florida, the Canary Islands in Spain and the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands