Thursday, March 10, 2011

NASA names Glory investigation board

NASA has named the board that will investigate the failure of the March 4 launch of NASA's Glory satellite, the second consecutive satellite lost atop a Taurus XL rocket.

NASA officials said Wednesday the Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket has little in common with the Taurus II rocket the company is developing to launch cargo to the International Space Station next year.

It does, however, share the system for separating the payload fairing, which failed to separate during Glory's flight. A different system also failed to release the fairing that covered NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory in 2009.

Both rockets were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, managed the launches.

LeRoy Cain, the deputy shuttle program manager, is one of seven voting members appointed to the board led by Bradley Flick of the Dryden Flight Research Center. Read the announcement here.

Orbital is one of two companies with NASA contracts to deliver cargo to the station, along with SpaceX. A test flight of the Taurus II rocket and Cygnus spacecraft is planned in the fourth quarter of this year.

"It doesn't cast any doubt in my mind on the future of (space station) cargo providers that are coming online," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, said of the Glory failure after shuttle Discovery landed Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center.

"It serves to us in the shuttle world now as a reminder this business isn't easy," he continued. "And when we start thinking about celebrations and other things we ought to do, they don't come easy, and they only come through all the hard work and staying focused on what we need to go do."

IMAGE: An Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA’s Glory spacecraft launched from Space Launch Complex 576-E here at 2:09 a.m. (PST) March 4. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss)

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