An Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer aircraft took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the Pegasus XL rocket with eight mini weather satellites inside.

Flying at 39,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean about 100 miles east of Daytona Beach the Stargazer aircraft dropped the Pegasus rocket containing the satellites. Approximately five seconds later the rocket ignited and carried the satellites into orbit about 300 miles above the Earth.

Watch the NASA CYGNSS Mission Explained

Watch the Actual Pegasus Rocket Launch

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) is designed to help track and predict hurricanes making frequent measurements of ocean surface winds.

The $157 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS, is meant to improve hurricane forecasting. The satellites have GPS navigation receivers to frequently measure the surface roughness of oceans, enabling scientists to calculate wind speed and storm intensity. Unlike weather satellites already in orbit, these spacecraft can peer through rain swirling in a hurricane, all the way into the eye, or core.

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“It looked beautiful,” NASA launch manager Tim Dunn said. “We’re very excited.”

Each spacecraft is just 64 pounds, with a 5-foot wingspan. – AP

NASA decided on this method of launch compared to a convention rocket because of lower costs.

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Orbital ATK Stargazer Aircraft Photo by NASA

Orbital ATK, a Dulles, Virginia based aerospace company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related systems to customers around the world. They employ 12,000 people in 18 different states and international locations.

Featured Image Courtesy of NASA