William Harwood
March 5, 2011

NASA’s Glory atmospheric research mission satellite crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean early today after a protective nose cone fairing failed to separate during launch aboard an Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus XL rocket. The $424 million failure was the second in a row for the Orbital Sciences booster following the 2009 loss of another environmental satellite due to a similar nose cone malfunction.

“I think it’s not an understatement to say tonight we’re all pretty devastated,” said Ronald Grabe, a former space shuttle commander who now manages Orbital’s Launch Systems Group. “But we will recover, the team will bounce back because they’re all professionals. Orbital Sciences will bounce back with the Taurus vehicle.”

Delayed since Feb. 23 by trouble with ground support equipment, the Glory mission got underway at 2:09:43 a.m. PT with a sky-lighting launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The first two stages of the slender four-stage solid-fuel booster ignited normally, with the second stage firing up on time two minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff.

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