A FAST Launch, and the Hugo Awards

Fifteen years ago today — August 21, 1996 — a Pegasus-XL rocket launched the “Fast Auroral SnapshoT explorer” to study how particles funneled through the Earth’s magnetosphere produce auroras.

(FAST satellite, after installation of its body-mounted solar panels. NASA image.)
FAST was placed in a polar orbit, the better to observe auroras, in an interesting configuration: the craft is spin-stabilized but its spin axis is perpendicular to its orbital track, so it would appear to roll or “cartwheel” through space. Its Pegasus launch vehicle originated out of Vandenberg AFB, and was carried to the Pacific drop zone by its L-1011 mothership.

In more recent news — tangentially space-related, since the Hugo Award features a stylized rocket ship — last night my friend Mary Robinette Kowal won the Hugo for Best Short Story: “For Want of a Nail”, which appeared in the September 2010 issue of Asimov’s. The complete list of Hugo winners is available here.

Several other writing friends — Rachel Swirsky, Aliette de Bodard, and Eric James Stone — were also nominated for Hugos, and two — Larry Correia and Saladin Ahmed — were nominated for the Campbell Award … which is pretty awesome even though they didn’t win.

But, as I posted to Larry on Facebook, even though he didn’t win I’m pretty sure he’s the only nominee with a song written about his book.

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