NASA's Glory mission fails to reach orbit (photos)
Glory was intended to be the 5th Earth observation satellite in the Afternoon Constellation cluster. This morning, however, it was lost shortly after launch.
Glory will join the Afternoon Constellation
Update 4:55 a.m. PT: NASA reports that the Glory spacecraft failed to reach orbit after lifting off aboard a Taurus rocket at 2:09 a.m. PT. "Telemetry indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch," NASA said.
The captions that follow were written in expectation of a successful launch. They've been edited somewhat to reflect Glory's unsuccessful launch.
The satellite Glory was to be part of a NASA mission to enhance the agency's modeling of the Earth's climate and reduce uncertainties about the causes and consequences of climate change. Among other things, the craft was intended to offer look at how aerosols affect climate. It will also help maintain a record of total solar irradiance.
Aerosols and solar energy influence the total amount of energy entering and exiting the Earth's atmosphere. Maintaining accurate measurements is important in anticipating future changes to our climate and how they may affect life.
Joining Aqua, CloudSat, CALIPSO, and Aura, all depicted here, Glory would have been the 5th Earth observation satellite in the Afternoon Constellation data-collection cluster in sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 690 kilometers.
At the launch site payload processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, engineers unwrap Glory from its protective bags to perform what's called the "receiving inspection."
Manufactured by Raytheaon, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) was sent to the Orbital Sciences' facilities in Dulles, Va., where it was integrated with the spacecraft before the unit was sent to Vandenberg for launch.
Raytheon's APS is the only instrument able to distinguish between the various aerosols in Earth's atmosphere and measure them accurately from space. It was intended to measure reflected sunlight that traverses Earth's atmosphere and interacts with aerosols.
"The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor and the Glory mission serve an important purpose, one that will advance our understanding of the effect of aerosols on global warming and help us distinguish between natural and man-made aerosols," said Bill Hart, vice president for Space Systems at Raytheon. "The data we provide will allow U.S. policymakers to reach better-informed decisions with regard to human interaction with the environment."
Aerosols such as salt, dust, and black carbon come in numerous shades depending on their chemical composition. Glory's Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor will distinguish differences among aerosol varieties from space.
The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) was designed to study aerosols by observing how light behaves when scattered by the aerosol particles.
The atmosphere is filled with natural and man-made particulate, which affects global temperatures, but according to NASA scientists, these substances represent the largest uncertainty regarding climate change.
"Since black carbon aerosols generally contribute to warming, and sulfate aerosols to cooling, the concentrations of these aerosols and others must be determined to ensure accurate climate modeling." says Bill Hart, vice president, Space Systems.
With 161 optical elements, including six telescopes that will analyze light of varying wavelengths, the APS would have made measurements from multiple viewing angles in multiple spectral bands.
At Space Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, workers move NASA's Glory spacecraft, secured on a stationary rail, into a temporary processing tent near the pad where it will be joined with the Taurus XL rocket's third stage.
On Space Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base
On Space Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Orbital Sciences workers monitor NASA's Glory upper stack as a crane lifts it from a stationary rail for attachment to the Taurus XL rocket's Stage 0. The upper stack consists of Stages 1, 2, and 3 of the Taurus as well as the encapsulated Glory spacecraft.
A portion of the launch tower is attached to the upper portion of the rocket, and falls away from the spacecraft during liftoff.
Earth's climate is almost completely determined by the symbotic balance between the intensity of the solar radiation and the response of the Earth's atmosphere through absorption, reflection, and re-radiation.
The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) was supposed to point toward the sun and continue a 32-year data record of the sun's total solar irradiance (TSI), giving NASA scientists an uninterrupted, multidecade look at atmospheric temperature.
Over the past century, the average temperature at the Earth's surface has increased by approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius.
NASA says determining what portion of this increase and the concomitant climate change is due to natural events and anthropogenic sources is of primary importance to the establishment of scientifically and economically effective policy.
The Glory satellite and its solar panels were intended to fly perpendicular or "sideways" to the craft's polar orbit.
It was to join the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train" of polar-orbiting satellites, a group that includes the Aqua and Aura satellites.
Joining Aqua, CloudSat, CALIPSO, and Aura, Glory would have been the 5th Earth observation satellite in the Afternoon Constellation cluster in the sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 690 kilometers.
The satellites are spaced a few minutes apart from each other, enabling their collective observations to be used to build data-rich, high-definition, three-dimensional images of the Earth's atmosphere and surface.