FREE image of Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Mate
At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the second and third stages of the Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket wait for mating. The rocket is the launch vehicle for the NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft. AIM is the seventh Small Explorers mission under NASA's Explorer Program. The program provides frequent flight opportunities for world-class scientific investigations from space within heliophysics and astrophysics. The AIM spacecraft will fly three instruments designed to study polar mesospheric clouds located at the edge of space, 50 miles above the Earth's surface in the coldest part of the planet's atmosphere. The mission's primary goal is to explain why these clouds form and what has caused them to become brighter and more numerous and appear at lower latitudes in recent years. AIM's results will provide the basis for the study of long-term variability in the mesospheric climate and its relationship to global climate change. AIM is scheduled to be mated to the Pegasus XL during the second week of April, after which final inspections will be conducted. Launch is scheduled for April 25.
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