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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Glory climate satellite fails: information & reactions

By Jason Samenow

Artistic rendering of the Glory satellite. Source: NASA

The oft-delayed launch of the climate research satellite, Glory, failed this morning according to NASA. The satellite was to collect data on the properties of tiny particles in the atmosphere or aerosols, including black carbon. It was also to obtain data on solar intensity to better understand the sun's long-term effects on the Earth's climate.

The space agency reported that:

* The satellite did not reach orbit due to failure of the rocket's fairing to separate. The fairing covers and protects the spacecraft during launch and ascent

* The satellite's remains are likely in the South Pacific but the exact location is not yet known.

* Its previous launch attempt of an Earth science spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory onboard a Taurus XL on Feb. 24, 2009, also failed to reach orbit when the fairing did not separate.

* It has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure.

The Associated Press (AP) reported the cost of the mission was $424 million

The satellite was give to scientists a much better tool to measure tiny natural and manmade particles, also known as aerosols, than any previous satellite NASA said. Aerosols are a key uncertainty in the understanding of climate change.

Some aerosols, such as black carbon, have a warming effect adding to the warming effect from manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Other aerosols, which are white and highly reflective such as sulfates, have a cooling effect. The combined direct and indirect effect of all aerosols (white, black, natural and manmade) on the Earth's climate is a major area of scientific inquiry.

"Undoubtedly, greenhouse gases cause the biggest climatic effect. But the uncertainty in the aerosol effect is the biggest uncertainty in climate at the present," said climate research Michael Mishchenko climate researcher in an article about the scientific goals of the mission.

NASA climate researcher Gavin Schmidt and blogger at called the mission "one of the most important (and most delayed) satellite launches in ages."

In particular, Schmidt lamented the loss of Aerosol Polarimeter Sensor (APS) which would have helped scientists better decipher which aerosols in the atmosphere were natural and which were manmade.

"The APS technology is a big step forward on these issues," he wrote.

He concluded his blog post stating, "Working from space is hard, expensive and risky. We cannot take it for granted, and yet we need that information more than ever."

Here's a video of the failed launch....

By Jason Samenow  | March 4, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Government, Latest  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Fine Friday before wet weekend
Next: My perceptions of winter, a review: Part III


Ok, I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder if Boeing et al stand to gain a lot by having these satellites fail.

Posted by: Section406 | March 4, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

This is not good.
Not good at all.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | March 4, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

why wasn't this put into orbit with the space shuttle?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 4, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Well you can't come down too hard on the guys who designed this rocket. It's not like they were rocket scientists. Oh, wait.

Posted by: rwalker66 | March 4, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Two times in a row this rocket makes the same mistake. Probably around $1 billion lost between these two missions.

NASA better find a new rocket contractor!

Posted by: JTF- | March 4, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse


Good question. I don't know, but my guesses are a) too big, or might crowd out other payload that can't be launched independently; b) needs to orbit higher than the space shuttle; or c) combined launch logistical nightmares.

Certain denizens of a very large domed building house are going to use this as an example of "waste."

Posted by: kperl | March 4, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse


It wasn't built by Boeing, it was built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Sad day for earth science, and climate study.

Posted by: rebroth | March 4, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

***off topic alert***

indeed, $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money, but those denizens-of-the-dome need to look elsewhere if seriously concerned about waste.

we have spent $1,121,000,000,000 in iraq and afghanistan over the past 10 years. that translates to about $1 billion EVERY 3 DAYS since 9/11! keep that figure in mind when hearing about budget shortfalls.

while afghanistan was justified, most of that money was pissed away in iraq, which was not only a waste, but it kept us from focusing on getting bin laden (remember him?) and other actual terrorist threats.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 4, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q is probably chuckling over this--and the Tea Party GOP'ers will probably knock a replacement out of the budget!

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 4, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

...Later: NASA today announced the successful launch and deployment of a third climate research satellite, Glory III. This new NASA satellite will help scientists fill in a gap in their understanding of global warming: the role of clouds and airborne particles. Unfortunately, in an unrelated test of the space based missile defense system a rogue interceptor missile misidentified and unintentionally shot down the Glory III. Heads will roll in the nation's capitol as to who will replace the expensive interceptor and the wasted taxpayer money in the failed defense system test.

Posted by: mudslingerboyman | March 4, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The cost of both lost satellites is less than $750M. I know people who worked on this project and imagine seeing all your hard work go into the ocean... With only two more space shuttle missions we are going to have to send everything into space via other launch vehicles. This could also be an expensive setback for other missions, let alone the setback for climate study.

Posted by: aludholtz1 | March 4, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

see? this is what happens when our students fall behind in math and science! how's that global warming doing at the bottom of the ocean?

Posted by: lizardlicked | March 4, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, 2 satellites designed to study climate change fail to reach orbit. Sounds a bit fishy.

Posted by: jgllo | March 4, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Why the heck didn't OSC use explosive bolts as a backup?

Posted by: webmaster12 | March 5, 2011 1:59 AM | Report abuse

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