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  Launch failure dooms NASA's Glory satelliteMar 05, 2011 1:18 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:(Near-)Space Disaster! But first, I gotta do my weekly pimping of my weekly fairy tale comic, The Princess and the Giant! You can get to the latest page by clicking this tempting banner (come on, you know you wanna know what's going on there =P):
NASA lost a satellite last night: the Glory satellite (NASA's mission page for it is here) did not reach orbit after launch, apparently because the nose cone fairing of the Taurus rocket carrying it did not open, meaning that the satellite most likely stayed stuck inside the exhausted rocket booster, falling back down to Earth and landing "in the southern Pacific Ocean somewhere," according to launch director Omar Baez in the Glory contingency media briefing (and in that somewhat slow video you can see him and other guys in charge, like Ron Grabe, General Manager of the Launch Systems Group at Orbital Sciences Corporation, the company who builds the Taurus rocket, sounding pretty depressed about the whole thing).
Here's an earlier, much more concise and less depressing recap by launch commentator George Diller:
video on Youtube
(on YouTube)
Fingers seem to be pointing firmly at the Taurus rocket, particularly because a very similar Taurus launch failure caused the loss of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory two years ago; there was another launch failure with a Taurus rocket in 2001, so 3 of the last 4 Taurus launches have failed--3 of 9 in all, which isn't a great record by modern NASA standards. And they'd thought they'd fixed the fairing problem over the past two years, but there seems to be something that's been missed.
Here's the ill-fated Glory in its Taurus rocket on the launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, one week ago, awaiting clearance for launch after its initial launch was delayed due to a technical issue:
image by NASA (source)
Now, Glory was going to study aerosols, radiance, and other stuff related to global warming, and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory was also going to study global-warming-related stuff--man it's almost like there's a conspiracy to prevent study of global warming! :o But I suppose it's much more likely just some undiagnosed problem with the rocket.
(It was kind of interesting to follow this last night; when I first came across the Associated Press article on the launch, it had been up for 46 minutes, and was a very short four paragraph thing saying NASA launched a satellite, here's what it's going to do, etc; that was long after the satellite had already been lost. Now it's been updated to a big long thing about the launch failure. Well heck, we do love our spectacular failures; I might not even have bothered writing this news post about it if I hadn't decided to look it up a bit more and then came across NASA's freshly-posted news/tweets/videos (they got those up so fast they still had typos in the titles!) about the launch failure.)
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