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NASA’s Glory mission launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Friday at 5:09:45 a.m. EST failed to reach orbit. Telemetry indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch. The failure represents a $420 million loss for NASA, and the loss of two important investigations related to climate change: ongoing data collection to monitor the sun’s energy reaching Earth, and a study of how aerosols move through Earth’s atmosphere and may influence climate.
This is the second time a Taurus XL rocket has failed to separate. NASA’s $273 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashed into the ocean in February 2009 due to a similar mishap. After that failure, Orbital Sciences redesigned the system. It has worked three times since on the company’s Minotaur rocket.