Friday, March 04, 2011

NASA's Glory satellite in South Pacific after launch failure.

NASA lost a climate satellite this morning after an Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus XL rocket mishap six minutes after launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The rocket's protective nosecone failed to separate as expected three minutes after launch, preventing the satellite from reaching orbit after its 5:09 a.m. launch from the West Coast. Weighed down by the fairing, the spacecraft fell into the southern Pacific Ocean.

The $424-million Glory mission was aimed at gaining a better understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles affect Earth's climate.

The mission, being managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Kennedy Space Center's Launch Services Program, was originally scheduled to launch Feb. 23 but a problem with ground support equipment forced a delay.

The same failure doomed another NASA climate satellite, the $273-million Orbiting Carbon Observatory, on Feb. 24, 2009. That was the LSP program's first failure since its formation in 1998; today's is the second.

NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure.

IMAGE: On Feb. 22, the Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket and NASA's encapsulated Glory spacecraft awaited launch on the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex 576-E in California. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin, VAFB

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