In the wake of the failure of the Glory mission, NASA is setting up a mishap investigation board to find out what happened.
The Glory mission was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Friday at 5:09 a.m. Eastern Time. It failed to reach orbit and the satellite and launch vehicle crashed into the ocean.
Clearly we missed something, Mike Luther, NASA's deputy associate administrator for programs of the Science Mission directorate. So we've now got to go off find out what that is and fix it. And that is in fact what we will do.
Two minutes and 45 seconds into the mission, stage one of the rocket burned out, and stage two ignited. (The stages are numbered from zero, so stage two is in fact the third one). The ground controllers sought a signal that would tell them the spacecraft had jettisoned the fairing six seconds later, but that signal never came. With the fairing still attached the rocket was too heavy to reach orbit. The satellite and launch vehicle both crashed into the South Pacific, though NASA says it is not sure exactly where.
The rocket, called a Taurus XL, has had similar problems before, one in 2009 when the Orbiting Carbon Observatory was launched. Orbital Sciences, which built the Taurus, made changes to the design of the joints that hold the fairing in place.
Rich Straka, deputy general manager of Orbital Science's Launch Systems Group, said the system was changed because the loss of that mission was probably caused by a failure to ignite the hot gas that breaks the joints which attach it to the upper stage of the rocket. The company switched to a cold gas system that has been a success on Orbital's Minotaur rockets.
There have been nine launches on the Taurus XL, with three of them ending in failure. Two of the failures were NASA satellites, while the third was a commercial venture.
Glory was designed to study aerosols, tiny particles in the Earth's atmosphere, as well as measure the amount of solar radiation the atmosphere receives. The data would help to refine climate models.
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