A Pegasus rocket blasted off from a B-52 bomber Wednesday, but the Pentagon lost touch with the booster and did not know if it was able to carry seven lightweight communications satellites into orbit.
"We do not have data on the final outcome of this mission," Army Maj. Robert Bonometti, mission director for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said at Edwards Air Force Base.
He said it could be hours before officials would be able to determine if the seven 49-pound Microsat satellites reached near-polar orbits 447 miles above Earth.
Failure of the $18-million mission would be the second time in a month that an Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket did not work as planned. The company's 50-foot Prospector rocket carrying scientific experiments careened out of control and was destroyed after launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18.
The Defense Department and Orbital Sciences Corp. announced the problem nearly three hours after the Pegasus was launched from a NASA B-52 bomber flying 43,100 feet above the Pacific Ocean 60 miles southwest of Monterey.
The jet took off from Edwards in the Mojave Desert at 9:25 a.m. The rocket was launched at 10:33 a.m.