The rocket carrying NASA's first satellite dedicated to tracking carbon dioxide on a global scale fell into the ocean this morning after a bungled launch. The $278 million mission, nine years in the making, would've helped improve climate models and better identify carbon "sinks," like forests and oceans, that absorb the greenhouse gas.
Charles P. Dovale, the launch manager, told The New York Times:
“It’s a huge disappointment to the entire team that’s worked very hard over years and years and really did their best to see it through. The reason not everyone is able to do this is — it’s hard. And even when you do the best you can, you can still fail. It’s a tough business.”
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory took off as planned today at 4:55 a.m. EST. Here's what NASA says went wrong:
Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.
The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the ocean near Antarctica, said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the Taurus XL.
NASA will put together a team to determine the cause of the launch failure.
In related news, the global warming satellite Japan launched in January, called GOSAT, seems to be doing fine. Over the next few months, scientists will ensure the satellite is functioning properly, and preliminary data is expected in April or May. If all goes well, perhaps climate officials will have new greenhouse gas data in hand when they discuss a new emissions treaty at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.