Launch of a Pegasus-XL from Stargazer with the ST-5 satellites
|First launch||27 June 1994|
|Last launch||13 June 2012|
Stargazer, registration number N140SC, is a modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar aircraft used by Orbital Sciences Corporation as a mother ship launch pad for Pegasus rockets. As of June 2012[update], 35 rockets have been launched from it, using the Pegasus-H and Pegasus-XL configurations.
The first Pegasus launch to use Stargazer was conducted on 27 June 1994, and was the maiden flight of the Pegasus-XL. Previous launches used the NASA-operated Boeing NB-52B Balls 8, which was also used for four subsequent launches, as the original Pegasus could not be launched from Stargazer due to clearance issues. A modified version, the Pegasus-H, was introduced to rectify this.
In addition to Pegasus launches, Stargazer was used for captive tests and transportation of the X-34 hypersonic research aircraft; however, drop tests used Balls 8. Orbital Sciences also offer the aircraft for research flights. It is capable of carrying a 23,000 kilograms (51,000 lb) payload to an altitude of 12,800 metres (42,000 ft).
Pegasus launches using Stargazer are usually conducted from Vandenberg Air Force Base. However, launches have also been conducted from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Wallops Flight Facility, and from launch sites outside the United States: Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and Gando Airport in Spain.