Issue Date: March 2, 2009
Carbon-Observing Satellite Mission Fails
NASA's much anticipated Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) mission, which was to study global CO2 sources and sinks, has ended in dismal failure. The craft plunged into the ocean near Antarctica just minutes after launch on the morning of Feb. 24. At Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California, where the OCO craft was launched, a despondent group of engineers and scientists told the press that the craft's fairing—a protective clamshell-shaped structure encapsulating the satellite—failed to separate from the launch rocket. The satellite wasn't able to go into orbit and fell back to Earth, landing in the ocean. The craft was expected to monitor, in high resolution, concentrations of CO2 from Earth's surface to the top of its atmosphere, providing vital information about the global distribution of the greenhouse gas (C&EN, Feb. 2, page 11). NASA, which invested nearly $275 million in the project, is convening a panel to investigate the exact cause of the failure. "It's a huge disappointment for the science community and for the entire team that's worked years and years," NASA Launch Director Charles P. Dovale, said at the press conference.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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