24 February 2009

NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory Launch Fails

Posted by Dan Satterfield

I watched last night as the NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory launched from California. What looked like a successful launch, ended with the spacecraft falling into the Pacific Ocean just short of Antarctica. Apparently the protective shell around the satellite, failed to separate.  The extra weight meant the rocket could not get enough velocity to make it into orbit.

The observatory reached an altitude of over 300 miles, but then fell back into the South Pacific near Antarctica. (The CNN Web Site incorrectly says it fell  into the ocean 3 minutes after launch. Obviously, you cannot reach Antarctica in 3 minutes from Northern California. Even if you were going at escape velocity!)

It probably took it about 25-30 minutes to come down. Kudos to the BBC web site for getting the story correct.

This is a big loss to the Climate Science Community. There are big questions about how, and where, Carbon is emitted, and absorbed in the atmosphere. The Carbon Observatory would have solved many mysteries.

You can see the post launch press conference on the NASA Web site.


A sad “Later” from Dan