This image shows the L-1011 airplane with the Pegasus rocket booster and HESSI attached to its underside. This picture was taken at Cape Canaveral where the plane will take off from...
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Courtesy of NASA

HESSI Awaits Launch
News story originally written on June 14, 2001

HESSI (the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager) is NASA's newest mission built to study the Sun. Specifically, HESSI will study solar flares. Solar activity like flares can have a huge effect on Earth. Particles released during a solar flare can reach Earth causing strong geomagnetic storms, aurorae and electrical power blackouts. So, it's important for us to understand solar flares. HESSI will help us do just that!

The total cost of the HESSI mission is $85 million. This does include the spacecraft, launch vehicles, mission operations and data analysis. So, this costs covers all expenses from when HESSI was still on the drawing board to when the mission ends. Still, it would be an awful lot of money to throw away!

When it turned out that the Pegasus rocket designed to boost the X-34A hypersonic vehicle went out of control on June 2nd and had to be blown up, NASA got a little nervous. You see, HESSI was suppose to be launched June 7, 2001, aboard a Pegasus rocket. The Stargazer L-1011 aircraft was to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida carrying HESSI and its Pegasus rocket booster into the air. The aircraft would release the rocket which would boost HESSI to its circular orbit about 373 miles above Earth. NASA engineers want to make sure there isn't a generic problem with the Pegasus booster rockets before sending HESSI off into space. HESSI's launch has been delayed until at least June 20, 2001. The X-34A investigators are working hard to determine whether it's safe for HESSI to take-off aboard its Pegasus rocket.

Last modified June 13, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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