A Small Step For Man A Tiny One For Industry

High over the Pacific on July 17, a slim, white rocket called Pegasus dropped from under the wing of a B-52 bomber and shot upward on a plume of fire and smoke. But something was wrong. Minutes after takeoff, radar tracking stations couldn't pick up the stubby-winged Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket with its cargo of seven Pentagon satellites. Engineers at OSC, a commercial space company in Fairfax, Va., waited nervously until, hours later, the Air Force spotted the missing satellites. The birds were in a lower orbit than planned, cutting their anticipated lifetime from three years to one.

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