March 4, 2011

Glory Satellite Fails To Reach Orbit

"¨NASA officials announced Friday that the Glory Earth observation satellite had failed to reach orbit, thus ending the hopes that the craft could be used to analyze the effect of aerosol particles and solar energy on the planet's climate.

"¨The satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:09:45am EST on March 4, but was unable to reach orbit, the US space agency confirmed in a press release.

"¨"Telemetry indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch," NASA officials said in a statement.

"¨In the wake of the mission's failure, NASA also announced that they would begin the process of forming a Mishap Investigation Board to discover why the failure occurred.

"¨"The launch proceeded as planned from its liftoff at 5:09 a.m. EST through the ignition of the Taurus XL's second stage," officials said in a second Friday press release. "However, the fairing failure occurred during the second stage engine burn."

"¨"The fairing did not separate and the vehicle does not have sufficient velocity with the fairing on to achieve orbit," an official said on NASA TV, according to AFP reports. That official added that there was "no indication as to why it did not separate."

"¨NASA believed that Glory fell into the South Pacific, but does not yet know its exact location.

"¨The launch of the $430 million satellite had been delayed multiple times as NASA engineers worked on an issue with the support equipment of the Taurus XL rocket that was to propel the satellite into orbit. Specifically, prior to its scheduled February 23 launch, a false "hold-fire" command originated in the Vehicle Interface Control Console in the mobile launch support van.

"¨Glory was to remain in orbit approximately 440 nautical miles above the Earth's surface, where it would study how the sun and the tiny atmospheric particles known as aerosols were impacting our planet's climate. The data it provided would have helped meteorologists to "anticipate future changes to our climate and how they may affect human life," NASA officials said in a statement last week.

"¨According to AFP, "A similar mishap took place in February 2009, when a satellite designed to monitor global carbon dioxide emissions plummeted into the ocean near Antarctica after failing to reach orbit, in a setback for climate science."

"¨"There too, a fatal mission error occurred minutes after liftoff when a clamshell-like nose cone known as a fairing, which protects the satellite during its ascent, failed to separate properly," they added.


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