In the second consecutive devastating loss of a climate observation satellite, NASA’s launch early this morning of the Glory satellite failed to reach orbit and crashed into the ocean. Reports of the launch aboard a Taurus XL rocket from Vanedenberg Air Force Base in California indicate that the protective fairing did not separate as expected. In 2009 the space agency lost its Orbiting Carbon Observatory in another malfunction.
The loss is an obviously big blow for earth observation and the study of climate changes. The Glory satellite contained instruments to study the energy produced from the sun and to examine particles in the atmosphere that trap energy. These details filled a gap to help predict future climate change.
[UPDATE]: NASA conducted a press briefing since the original post to describe what occurred. The payload fairing that failed on this launch was the same problem that caused the failure of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory. Despite a year’s worth of study by both Orbital Sciences (the designer and launch company responsible for the Taurus XL) and NASA, and a total redesign of the failed fairing, they obviously didn’t fix the problem. The Glory satellite launch was a $424 Million mission, with $54 Million going to Orbital for launch services.