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Monday, 18 November 2019

Uncertain future for L-1011 Stargazer

Ahead of the latest ICON/Pegasus XL launch, Northrop Grumman's Vice-President stated that they are planning to keep their L-1011 Stargazer five to 10 years more.
Phil Joyce, vice president of space launch programs at Northrop Grumman, said this week that the company is trying to sell the launches using the two remaining Pegasus XL rockets, and officials plan to keep the Pegasus rocket’s L-1011 carrier jet flying for at least five or 10 more years. 
“We’re looking out five or 10 years with the L-1011, and what parts do we need, being the only flying L-1011 on the planet,” he said. “We have the only trained pilots, we have the only trained mechanics for that aircraft, and we needed the parts.”

However, and since there are no new Pegasus missions scheduled, some rumors say that the aircraft used as an airborne launch platform will be retired soon and turned into a monument, as it was already proposed in the recent past.

Stargazer monument © Gordon/Orbital ATK

In even if Stratolaunch project seems to be having its difficulties, the fact is that new airborne launch platforms for small satellites (like Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl/Launcher One) are being developed and the challenge of keeping an aircraft that is 45 years old and that is the last operational L-1011 in the world will certainly condemn Stargazer to its final retirement soon or later.

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