Launch Anomaly Dooms Satellite

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite was lost yesterday when an anomaly occurring within minutes of its 1:55 a.m. (Pacific Time) launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., prevented the satellite from reaching orbit. The ill-fated satellite then likely splashed down in the ocean near Antarctica, said NASA. Members of USAF’s 30th Space Wing sent the satellite aloft aboard a Taurus XL rocket from Vandy’s 576th-E space launch complex. Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the launch vehicle—the clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere—failed to separate, thereby dooming the mission. NASA said a mishap investigation board will immediately convene to determine the cause of the anomaly. OCE was the first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide to measure its impact on the Earth’s climate. (Vandenberg report by SSgt. Raymond Hoy) (For more, go to NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory Web page for updates and a link to the video of yesterday’s press conference on the mishap.)