The Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA's newest climate satellite Glory failed to reach orbit today (March 4) after its nose cone failed to separate as planned. Minutes after liftoff, the Taurus XL rocket's nose cone – a clamshell-like covering around the satellite called a fairing that is designed to separate during the trip into orbit – suffered some sort of failure, NASA spokesperson George Diller said. "The fairing did not separate from the Taurus and the Glory spacecraft is not able to achieve orbit," Diller said in televised commentary about 15 minutes after liftoff. The rocket and satellite likely plunged somewhere into the southern Pacific Ocean.
The Glory satellite was designed to study the interaction between the sun's energy and Earth's atmosphere, with a specific focus on tiny particles – called aerosols – and their role in the planet's climate. Scientists hoped the satellite would address key uncertainties in climate research — especially those surrounding the contributions of manmade and natural aerosols to global climate change.