A NASA satellite intended to bring some hard facts to the climate-change debate has crashed into the sea after lifting off from California and failing to separate from its booster rocket.
The "Glory" satellite carried two sensors, one intended for investigation of aerosols – particulates such as soot – in the atmosphere and another which would measure the amount of solar energy reaching Earth. According to NASA, describing Glory's mission:
Understanding whether the temperature increase and climate changes are by-products of natural events or whether the changes are caused by man-made sources is of primary importance.
The satellite lifted off from Vandenberg airforce base on the Californian coast at 11:09am today UK time, but telemetry indicated that the fairing in which it was carried atop its Taurus XL launch stack failed to separate from the second stage as planned three minutes later. Dragged down by the expended stage, Glory could not reach orbit and is thought to have crashed into the South Pacific.
NASA has issued a statement in which it says that a Mishap Investigation Board is being convened to look into the crash.
Regular Reg readers will recall that the earlier Orbiting Carbon Observatory spacecraft – intended, like Glory, to provide data relating to the climate change debate, in that case on CO2 levels – also crashed into the Pacific in 2009. The OCO was also carried on a Taurus XL, and as with Glory, the launch failed due to failure of the fairing to separate.
Following the OCO debacle, Taurus manufacturer Orbital Sciences developed a corrective action plan which was duly implemented and signed off as complete by NASA last October. ®