Visit with Orbital Sciences

Our very own Dave Budd was invited out to Mojave Space Port to photograph the Orbital L-1011 known as Stargazer”  This  aircraft is an L-1011 commercial transport aircraft modified to serve as the launch platform for Orbital’s air-launched Pegasus rocket as well as a platform for airborne research projects. The L-1011 has been used to successfully launch 32 Pegasus rockets as well as the captive carry flights of the X-34 reusable launch vehicle demonstrator. The aircraft has also been used to conduct various airborne research projects including the NASA Adaptive Performance Optimization (APO) project.

Dave  budd and his guest fellow photorgrapher Franz were very excited to witness the Stargazer L-1011 and crew perfoming some work up training and qaulification of flight crew members. Please check back soon as a full story and post of the great photos they captured will be posted here on

The aircraft was not carrying the Pegasus rocket this time ,however seeing an L-1011 in this pristine condition was quite an event, Both dave and Franz got to tour the aircraft and photograph the flight deck. Photorecon hopes to photograph this aircraft and the Pegasus rocket at the next Rocket launch keep cheking back for updates.

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 decade since its maiden flight, Pegasus has become the world’s standard for affordable and reliable small launch vehicles. It has conducted 40 missions, launching over 80 satellites.

Orbital’s L-1011 airborne launch and research platform enhancements include:

* Fully equipped as an airborne platform providing power, data, video monitoring and telemetry transmission,
* Efficient design for rapid test equipment installation and removal,
* The unique external payload hook system can support an externally mounted pallet for aerial research equipment or for external release,
* Launch Panel Operator (LPO) station to monitor and control payload,
* Heres a link to Dave and Franz’s flicker photo streams. They will have some great photos of the visit posted.

Joe Kates

Joe Kates is the founder of Photorecon. Joe has been into aviation since he was a child and has a incredible amount of knowledge to do with planes or aviation in general. Today Joe is the owner and Managing Editor of Photorecon.

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