What are the parts of the IBEX flight system?
The digital rendering above shows most of the flight system for the IBEX spacecraft. IBEX launched on October 19, 2008 using Orbital Science Corporation’s Pegasus rocket attached to the underside of an L–1011 airplane flying at a high altitude. At the right location, the Pegasus rocket was dropped from underneath the airplane. A few seconds later, the Pegasus fired its first stage rocket to propel it and IBEX upward. When the fuel in the first and second stages was consumed, the spent stages were jettisoned. In the digital rendering above, the first and second stages of the Pegasus rocket and the smooth white fairing that covered the entire rocket system are not shown.
The rendering above shows the third stage of the Pegasus rocket at far left. The cone–shaped rocket nozzle is to the left, and the cylindrical fuel tank for this rocket nozzle is just to its right. Next, to the right of the third stage Pegasus rocket is the avionics ring, a cylinder with what appears to be cube shapes of varying sizes attached. This hardware provided command and control for the Pegasus rocket during flight. To the right of the avionics ring is the adapter ring, a slightly tapered cylinder surrounding the nozzle for the solid rocket motor. The adapter ring connected the hardware for the Pegasus rocket with the hardware for the IBEX spacecraft. The bell-shaped piece with the rocket nozzle was the solid rocket motor that propelled IBEX from low–Earth orbit a few hundred miles above the Earth's surface to a highly elliptical orbit that, at its farthest point, was about 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometers) from the Earth, or about 5/6th of the distance to the orbit of the Moon.
To the far right in this rendering is the IBEX spacecraft itself, a stop–sign shaped craft with several small thrusters that are used to periodically adjust the direction in which IBEX is pointed. For more information about the IBEX spacecraft itself, try the "Spin the Spacecraft" activity on the Games and Activities page.