OSC Rocket Sends Glory Satellite to Bottom of the Pacific — Again

NASA PR — At a news conference following the unsuccessful attempt to place the Glory spacecraft in orbit, a team from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, maker of the Taurus XL rocket, discussed the failure of the rocket’s fairing to separate. The fairing, which covers and protects the spacecraft during launch and ascent, underwent a redesign of its separation system after a similar failure two years ago. The new system has been successfully used on another Orbital launch vehicle several times.

NASA’s Glory mission was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday at 5:09:45 a.m. EST.  NASA Launch Director Omar Baez said the countdown and launch went smoothly until the point at which they should have received data indicating that the fairing had separated from the vehicle.

Once more data is analyzed, the teams hope to have a better understanding of what went wrong and where in the South Pacific the spacecraft may have landed. NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure.

The new Earth-observing satellite was intended to improve our understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth’s climate.

NASA’s previous launch attempt of an Earth science spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory on board a Taurus XL on Feb. 24, 2009, also failed to reach orbit when the fairing did not separate.

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory Mishap Investigation Board reviewed launch data and the fairing separation system design, and developed a corrective action plan. The plan was implemented by Taurus XL manufacturer Orbital Sciences Corporation. In October 2010, NASA’s Flight Planning Board confirmed the successful closure of the corrective actions.

Project management for Glory is the responsibility of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is the launch service provider to Kennedy of the four-stage Taurus XL rocket and is also builder of the Glory satellite for Goddard.