David Kirkpatrick

February 24, 2009

NASA research sat fails

Didn’t make it to orbit and now resides in the ocean.

From the link:

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory lifted off on schedule at 1:55 a.m. Pacific time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a four-stage Taurus XL rocket.

But three minutes later, during the burning of the third stage, the payload fairing — a clamshell nose cone that protects the satellite as it rises through the atmosphere — failed to separate as commanded.

The third and fourth stages burned properly, but because of the added weight of the nose cone, the satellite did not reach orbit.

“The fairing has considerable weight relative to the portion of the vehicle that’s flying,” said John Brunschwyler, manager of the Taurus rocket program for Orbital Sciences of Virginia, which built both the rocket and the satellite.

“So when it separates off, you get a jump in acceleration,” said Mr. Brunschwyler. “We did not have that jump in acceleration. As a direct result of carrying that extra weight, we could not make orbit.”

The satellite fell back to Earth, landing in the ocean just short of Antarctica.

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