Crash Ends Mission to Track Global Warming

Rocket carrying satellite ends up in ocean, sinking $280M project
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2009 10:50 AM CST
A rocket carrying NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory on the launch pad. The rocket blasted off early Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, but failed to separate from the launch vehicle and landed in the ocean.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Senior Airman Cole M. Presley)
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(Newser) – A rocket carrying a NASA satellite crashed near Antarctica after a failed launch early yesterday, ending a $280 million mission to track global warming from space. The rocket carrying the Orbiting Carbon Observatory blasted off just before 2am from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. But minutes later a cover protecting the satellite during launch failed to separate from the rocket, a preliminary investigation found.

The 986-pound satellite was supposed to be placed into a polar orbit 400 miles high to track carbon dioxide emissions. The project was 9 years in the making, and the mission was supposed to last 2 years. "Certainly for the science community it's a huge disappointment," said a project manager for  the rocket and satellite. "It's taken so long to get here."