‘Climate Change Satellite’ Fails to Reach Orbit, Crashes in Ocean


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.

Source: NASA press release. Also see a previous story about the mission.

18 Replies to “‘Climate Change Satellite’ Fails to Reach Orbit, Crashes in Ocean”

    1. As AM Henry wrote in NASA TV;
      “2 fairing failures in a row! Maybe someone should ask the Chinese, French, or Russians how to pop the thing off. Thank goodness they didn’t work on Apollo.”

  1. that’s two failures of climate-related instruments by te same Launch Service Provider. I can smell a sabotage conspiracy theory cooking…

  2. NASA is such a joker: Taurus XL has launched a mere 9 times in 17 years, with now 3 failures. And this was the 2nd Taurus XL launch in a row, with a failure, _and the same bloody load_!

    You know the common definition of insanity, right? That is to repeat a failure in extremis.

    1. Didn’t Einstein define insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting different results? (probably not verbatim)

      1. Thanks, that was what I was reaching for!

        I can find the alleged quote but no source reference, so don’t know if it was an actual one. But this is better than my memory of “common definition”, and a better formulation:

        “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

        “”The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.”

        (The difference in formulation on different sites points to that this is either not an actual quote, the wrong attribution, a common folk quote, or some other mess up.)

    2. “And this was the 2nd Taurus XL launch in a row, with a failure, _and the same bloody load_!”
      To be fair, and I don’t know, is the fairing deployment integral with the Taurus XL (Orbital) system or is this a separate component, i.e. a subcontracted company add-on? If Ann does investigate, maybe some answers will surface.

      1. Sorry, shoulda done some homework before posting. Seems they built the whole kit a kaboodle, including the satellite platform. And the contract was inked before the previous OCO failure and your right the next OCO replacement contract was inked last June but, depending on the failure findings, that may change.

  3. And now guess on which rocket they plan to start the OCO-2 satellite, the replacement for the first failure.
    Yes, another Taurus XL….

    1. “NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corp. of
      Dulles, Va., to launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)
      mission. The spacecraft will fly in February 2013 aboard a Taurus XL
      3110 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
      … The OCO-2 spacecraft will replace OCO-1, lost during a launch
      vehicle failure in 2009.”

      OK, _that_ is the exact same load. Sorry about the earlier generalization.

      … even more sorry for US space science, that got saddled with NASA ineptitude.

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