WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space agency NASA launched a Pegasus XL carrier rocket with the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), a weather satellite, into space on Thursday.
The rocket and its payload were air-launched from a modified L-1011 aircraft, nicknamed Stargazer, which first flew to about 39,000 feet (12,000 meters) over the Atlantic Ocean and then released the Pegasus XL rocket at around 10 p.m. American Eastern Time (0200 GMT).
Pegasus XL, made by the U.S. aerospace company Northrop Grumman, is a small expendable rocket which is the only operational air-launched rocket in the world.
NASA confirmed that the satellite had been delivered to a low-Earth orbit, orbiting 360 miles (580 km) above the Earth.
ICON will study the dynamic zone high in Earth's atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above, according to NASA.