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Friday, March 4, 2011

Closed Fairing Dooms Glory Mission

A payload fairing that failed to open prevented the Orbital Sciences Taurus XL 3110 launcher carrying the Glory climate monitoring satellite from achieving orbit after liftoff at 2:09 a.m. PST from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
The launch was nominal through Stage 3 separation until about 4.5 min. into the flight, when tracking stations at Point Mugu, Calif., and Vandenberg reported the failure of the clamshell fairing to open. The added weight of the fairing prevented the launcher from achieving orbit.
“We do not have any indication of what happened,” said mission announcer George Diller. NASA officials are updating the press on the mishap.
A $424 million mission, Glory carried two main instruments that focused on the subtle ways solar radiance influences Earth’s climate. The 1,158-lb. spacecraft, also built by Orbital, was supposed to enter a 437-mi. Sun-synchronous orbit that is occupied by five other satellites devoted to Earth observation science, collectively known as the “A-Train.”
The failure echoes the fate of another NASA climate satellite, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), which was lost in 2009 due to another fairing-related failure involving the Taurus XL rocket. The Glory launch was the first flight of the XL since OCO was destroyed (Aerospace DAILY, July 20, 2009).

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