Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Launch mishap ends Orbital Carbon Observatory's mission

Terrible news, from NASA. This satellite would have provided a great deal of valuable data about global atmospheric greenhouse gases at a time when the world needs it more than ever: NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after its 4:55 a.m. EST liftoff Feb. 24 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.

The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica, said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the Taurus XL. A Mishap Investigation Board is to determine the cause of the launch failure.

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory and its Taurus booster lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A contingency was declared a few minutes later. Image credit: NASA TV

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