NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL vehicle at 1:26 p.m. PDT on April 25 within a launch window that extends from 1:23 to 1:30 p.m. PDT. The drop point of the Pegasus from the L-1011 carrier aircraft is a location over the Pacific Ocean approximately 100 miles offshore west-southwest of Point Sur, Calif. AIM will be launched at an azimuth of 192.5 degrees into a circular polar orbit of 375 miles with an inclination of 97.77 degrees.

AIM is a two-year mission to study polar mesospheric clouds. These are the Earth’s highest clouds, which form an icy membrane 50 miles above the surface at the edge of space. These clouds, which are visible from the ground with the naked eye, form in the spring and summer at high latitudes and have been seen for over a century, reflecting the Sun’s light in the twilight sky. The mission’s primary goal for the spacecraft’s three instruments is to explain why these clouds form, and discover what is causing them to appear more frequently and at lower latitudes.

NASA Kennedy Space Center is responsible for launch vehicle/spacecraft integration and launch countdown management. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is responsible for the overall AIM mission management. Hampton University in Hampton, Va., is the prime contractor and is leading the mission, assisted by the University of Colorado and Virginia Tech. Orbital Sciences Corporation is responsible for providing the Pegasus XL launch service to NASA.

Prelaunch Press Conference

A prelaunch press conference and mission briefing, to be carried live on NASA Television, will begin at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) on April 24 in the conference room of the NASA-KSC Resident Office at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Participating in the prelaunch press conference will be:

Vicki Elsbernd, AIM Program Executive
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Omar Baez, NASA Launch Director/NASA Launch Manager
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Bryan Baldwin, Pegasus Launch Vehicle Program Director
Orbital Sciences Corporation, McClean, Va.

Mike McGrath, AIM Project Manager
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
University of Colorado, Boulder, Co.

Captain Damon Vorhees, Launch Weather Officer, U.S. Air Force
30th Weather Squadron, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

AIM Mission Science Briefing

An AIM mission briefing will immediately follow the prelaunch press conference. Participating will be:

Mary Mellott, AIM Program Scientist
NASA Headquarters, Washington

James Russell III, AIM Principal Investigator
Hampton University, Hampton, Va.

Scott Bailey, AIM Deputy Principal Investigator
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

AIM Press Accreditation and Launch Coverage

News media desiring accreditation to cover the prelaunch press conference and launch of Pegasus/AIM should call the 30th Space Wing Public Affairs Office at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 805-606-3595.

On April 24, local media desiring to cover the AIM prelaunch press conference and mission science briefing should meet at the main gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base on California State Road 1 at 12:20 p.m. for escort to the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office in Building 840.

On launch day, April 25, media representatives should meet at the Vandenberg main gate at noon to be escorted to the Vandenberg Air Force Base runway to view the departure of the L-1011 aircraft. Media will then be taken to the viewing room of the NASA Mission Director’s Center located at Building 840 on South Vandenberg Air Force Base. From there, media may follow the flight and launch of Pegasus/AIM.

Assuming a successful flight of the Pegasus, a post-launch news conference will not be held. However, launch vehicle and spacecraft representatives will be available afterward to informally answer questions from the media.

NASA Television Launch Coverage of Pegasus/AIM

Live coverage on NASA Television of the Pegasus/AIM launch will begin at noon a.m. PDT (3 p.m. EDT) on April 25 and continue through spacecraft separation from the Pegasus vehicle, which occurs approximately 10 minutes after launch. Live audio of the launch coverage and the Pegasus/AIM briefings will be available on the “V circuits” that may be dialed at 321-867-1220, 1240, 1260, 7135.

In the continental United States, NASA TV is available via satellite on AMC-6, Transponder 17, C-band, located at 72 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 4040.0 MHz video, 6.8 MHz audio, MPEG-2 digital signal. In Alaska and Hawaii, NASA TV is available on AMC-7, Transponder 18, C-band, at 137 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 4060.0 MHz, also an MPEG-2 digital signal. Polarization is vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80 MHz. A digital integrated receiver decoder is required; an analog signal is no longer available.

For NASA TV launch coverage information and schedules on the Internet, visit:

Web Prelaunch, Launch and Mission Coverage of Pegasus/AIM

For live launch coverage and AIM mission information, go to the AIM link on the NASA Portal at:

On launch day, the launch blog will be activated beginning at noon PDT. Real-time updates will be featured as countdown milestones occur. A launch highlight podcast will be posted at approximately L+30 minutes.

Pegasus/AIM News Center

The Pegasus/AIM News Center at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office will be staffed starting on April 19 and may be reached between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. PDT at 805-605-3051. A recorded status report will also be available starting April 20 and may be reached by dialing 805-734-2693. The U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing Public Affairs office may be reached at 805-606-3595.