Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Taurus XL Rocket Launch Fails

Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that the launch of its Taurus XL rocket, which lifted off earlier today at 2:09 a.m. (PST), from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying the company-built Glory satellite for NASA, was unsuccessful.

Preliminary indications are that the rocket’s payload fairing, a clamshell mechanism that encases the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere, failed to separate from the rocket. The previous time a Taurus XL rocket was launched was in 2009 for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) mission. That launch also resulted in a failure due to a fairing separation problem. Since that time Orbital redesigned and tested the fairing separation system.

Orbital will immediately convene a failure investigation board that will include representative from the company and NASA to determine the cause of today’s launch failure. Orbital believes that it is likely that sufficient data was gathered to be able to determine the cause of the fairing separation failure.

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