Pegasus/WIRE launch, March 4, 1999

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Pegasus launches WIRE on March 4, 1999 A Pegasus rocket was launched from Stargazer, the Orbital Sciences L-1011, at 6:56 P.M. on March 4, 1999. Its payload was the Wide-field Infra Red Explorer (WIRE) satellite. The booster climbed out of the earth's shadow during the second stage engine burn. It is framed by a group of four planets. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

The WIRE satellite was designed to study galaxies at infrared wavelengths. It was expected to study 50,000 galaxies, particularly starburst galaxies in the early universe. Unfortunately, the WIRE satellite suffered a system failure and its supply of hydrogen coolant has already been depleted.

From top to bottom, the planets Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury are lined up in the background. It's about 100,000,000 miles to Venus and Mercury. They are both near their maximum elongation from the sun. Jupiter is 600,000,000 miles away on the far side of the sun, and Saturn is out there 900,000,000 miles.

This image was assembled from two frames of Kodachrome 64. I shot it with a pair of Pentax K-1000 cameras fitted with Tamron 28-mm f2.5 lenses wide open. I spliced the two images together with Adobe Photoshop.

Pegasus launches WIRE on March 4, 1999 The exhaust cloud glowed quite brightly in the sunlight immediately after launch. As the outer parts of the expanding exhaust cloud faded, the main exhaust trail took on the appearance of a comet with a blue coma and a red tail. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

Link to the Pegasus Launch Vehicle Page of the Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Wide Field Infra-Red Explorer Link to the Wide Field Infra-Red Explorer Page of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at California Institute of Technology.

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Rocket Launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base

2018 Calendar

You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring my photographs of rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Rocket Launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Rocket Launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base

Photos of thirteen rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base:

Pegasus-XL/Wide-Field Infra-red Explorer (WIRE) March 4, 1999
Atlas-IIAS/Terra December 18, 1999
Delta II/Gravity Probe B, April 20, 2004
Minotaur/Streak September 22, 2005
Titan IV/National Reconnaissance Office satellite, October 19, 2005
Minuteman III, February 16, 2006
Minuteman III, April 2, 2008
Target Launch Vehicle, September 24, 2008
Delta-II/GeoEye 1, September 6, 2008
Delta II/Jason 2, June 20, 2008
Delta II/COSMO-Skymed, October 24, 2008
Taurus/Orbiting Carbon Observatory, February 24, 2009
Delta-II/Worldview 2, October 28, 2009

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Book about missiles and rockets available from

The Missile and Space Race by Alan J. Levine. Here is a history of the development of military missiles and space travel from World War II to the American visits to the Moon in 1969-1972. It stresses the relationship between the early stages of space exploration and the arms race, and that a dual path led to space flight. One was the development of unmanned long-range war rockets, the other, less often noted, was the rocket-powered research plane. The first path led through the intercontinental ballistic missile to the first artificial satellites and space capsule; the latter, more uniquely American, through the X-series and Skyrocket rocket planes to the X-15, and ultimately to the Space Shuttle. The early part of the book focuses on the Soviet-American race to develop the ICBM in the 1950s, and the first satellites, with particular attention paid to the events and reactions that followed the flight of Sputnik I in 1957 and the subsequent missile gap era.

Link to the home page of the 30th Space Wing 30th Space Wing

Call the Vandenberg Air Force Base Launch Hotline at (805) 606-1857 for current launch schedule information.

NASA rocket launch manifest Link to the NASA rocket launch manifest

For national and international space coverage visit

Brian Webb's Rawhide Space Page provides launch schedule and ham radio information.

Send a message to Brian.

Go to home page of the Goleta Air and Space Museum.