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NASA loses its ‘Glory’ satellite soon after launch

NASA’s Glory satellite crashed soon after its launch on Friday after the protective cone of its Taurus XL rocket failed to separate after the launch. This is the second time NASA has lost its satellite due to the same problem with the Taurus rocket.

NASA’s Glory satellite crashed into the Pacific Ocean soon after its pre-dawn launch on Friday from the Vandenberg Air Base in California.

The lost satellite cost around $424 million and was on a mission to assess the effects of climate changes on the aerosols in the atmosphere.

The satellite was lost after the nose cone of its rocket failed to open as was planned.

The failed mission
Glory was launched before dawn and mounted on a Taurus XL rocket, which was built by Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Virginia.

This is the second time NASA had problems with the Taurus rocket, and both times the culprit was the nose cone which would not separate after the launch.

An Orbital Sciences spokesman, Barron Beneski said, “Obviously, this is a terrific disappointment and we feel bad for letting NASA ....Down. People have dedicated years into this.”

Scientists believe that the rocket crashed because the nose cone, which protects the satellite during the launch but falls after it, had not fallen off as planned. It was supposed to open like a clam shell and get separated, but the engineers reported after three minutes of the launch that there was no signal that the cone had fallen off.

A controller said on a communication link, “We are at T-plus 300 seconds. The vehicle speed is indicating underperformance, which is expected due to a fairing not separating.”

The rocket could not have reached the orbit as the nose cone was weighing it down.

Ronald Grabe, a manager at the Orbital Science Corp. and himself a veteran astronaut, expressed his disappointment and said, “This is a pretty tough night for all of us. We’re all pretty devastated.”

This is the second time NASA had problems with the Taurus rocket, and both times the culprit was the nose cone which would not separate after the launch.

Problem with the Taurus Rockets
NASA lost a probe named Orbiting Carbon Observatory under similar circumstances in 2009. Orbital Sciences and NASA had assured of a thorough probe so that such a thing is not repeated in the future.

Orbital Sciences has claimed that it is too early to say that the mission failed due to the same problem.

Company spokesman said, “Understandably, people are thinking this is the same problem all over again. It’s too early to tell. We have to evaluate all the data before we can say that’s true.”

The satellite is hard to recover, but the engineers have captured enough data through sensors to identify the problem.

Orbital Sciences has attempted to launch the Taurus satellite nine times since 1994 and has succeeded only six times.