A NASA satellite crashed back to Earth about three minutes after launch early Tuesday, officials said.
“We could not make orbit,” NASA program manager John Brunschwyler said. “Initial indications are the vehicle did not have enough [force] to reach orbit and landed just short of Antarctica in the ocean.” “Certainly for the science community, it’s a huge disappointment.” The satellite, which would have monitored greenhouse gases to study how they affect the Earth’s climate, was launched on a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:55 a.m. PT (4:55 a.m. ET). But the payload fairing — a clamshell-shaped structure that allows the satellite to travel through space — failed to separate from the rocket, NASA officials said. The weight of the fairing caused the rocket and the satellite to come crashing down to Earth about three minutes later. A team of investigators will look into what caused the payload fairing to fail to separate. The $273 million satellite, called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, would have collected “precise global measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere” to help better forecast the changes in carbon dioxide “and the effect that these changes may have on the Earth’s climate.”