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NASA’s $424 million satellite fails to launch

by Kelly MacNeil on March 4, 2011

NASA's mission control in Houston received bad news on Friday morning, March 4, when word of an unsuccessful launch confirmed the failure of the Taurus XL rocket, part of NASA's Glory atmospheric research mission, according to

"Good morning everyone, the plan's on board. Just one news update. About an hour ago, NASA Glory Earth-observing spacecraft was launched and failed to achieve orbit today when the payload fairing did not separate," said astronaut Hal Getzelman, according to the news source.

"Oh, sorry to hear that. That's unfortunate," replied Scott Kelly, the station commander.

A protective nose cone did not separate as planned from the Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket. The rocket was developed to measure solar energy levels and the effects of tiny particles known as aerosols.

Aerosols can be found in liquid or solid form, and are part of the cause of "hazy skies," according to NASA.

This is not the first failed launch for the Taurus XL. A similar problem occurred in 2009 and scientists had been trying to make redesigns over the past two years.

"Clearly, we missed something. We've now got to go off, find out what that is, fix it and that is, in fact, what we will do. In the meantime, we've lost the Glory mission. It would have made important measurements for the understanding of Earth as a system and the impacts of climate change," Mike Luther, deputy associate administrator for science operations at NASA headquarters, told the news source.

In terms of monetary losses, this second Taurus XL failure means a deficit of about $700 million. The first failed Taurus XL rocket was the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, worth $273 million, which failed to launch on February 24, 2009, also due to a nose cone failure.

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