An eagerly awaited NASA satellite failed to reach orbit Tuesday after the rocket carrying it crashed shortly after liftoff from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

NASA announced it was launching an investigation but preliminary indications were that the protective nose cone, known as the fairing, on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate, NASA said in a statement. The fairing encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.

Certainly for the science community it is a huge disappointment, said John Brunschwyler, Taurus Program Manager in a NASA press conference Tuesday. It's taken so long to get here, he added.

The satellite called Orbiting Carbon Observatory, was part of a two-year mission to make some important measurements of the carbon cycle related to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its pathways between the atmosphere, the oceans and biosphere.

It was to be the first spacecraft dedicated to studying the greenhouse gas which is seen as a great contributor to climate change. The OCO was meant to help policymakers and business leaders make decisions to ensure climate stability, NASA said.