Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A NASA satellite design to observe and collect data on the earth's emission of carbon dioxide failed to reach its planned orbit following liftoff this morning from Vandenberg, AFB in California.
Launch occured aboard an Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket at 4:55:30 am EST.
Liftoff via NASA-TV showed a normal launch, as the solid fueled rocket burned through it's four stages during the ascent. However, launch operations came on suddenly near the end of powered flight calling, "...it appears we have had a contingency with the OCO mission ... enact the mission mishap preparedness plan."
Moments later, it was confirmed by launch control that the nose fairing did not seperate from around the O.C.O. spacecraft. Thus, the spacecraft had too much weight to achieve orbit.
This NASA image above shows the O.C.O. spacecraft inside the suspect nose fairing.
8:10 am ET UPDATE: During a news conference taking place right now here at Vandenberg, members of the O.C.O. team announced that the O.C.O. spacecraft, "landed just short of Antartica [and] in the [southern] Atlantic Ocean."
An investigation board will be announced in the coming weeks. Another Taurus XL launch is planned for later in 2009, and the Taurus XL team stated that that flight has not been impacted.
This was the second launch failure of the Taurus XL in it's eight flights.