The Taurus rocket carried the “Glory” payload and lifted off around 2AM from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Initial indications are that a protective shell that sat atop the rocket failed to deploy as expected which caused the satellite to be too heavy to reach orbit.
The loss of the satellite is reminiscent of a similar loss two years ago when a global warming satellite crashed into the ocean near Antarctica.Â That satellite was also powered by a similar Taurus rocket.
While the remains of the doomed rocket and satellite have not yet been definitively located, NASA officials indicate it likely plummeted back to Earth not far from the location where the previous satellite crashed.
“We failed to make orbit,” NASA launch director Omar Baez said Friday. “Indications are that the satellite and rocket … is in the southern Pacific Ocean somewhere.”
The $455 million payload satellite named “Glory” was set to begin a three-year mission to analyze atmospheric particles which are believed to reflect and trap sunlight.Â While some aerosols are produced by humans, the vast majority are produced by natural phenomena, including volcanoes, forest fires, and other disruptions.
NASA officials have already announced that it hopes the third time is a charm: it is scheduling a duplicate launch in two years.