Glory Delayed for NASA, But What's Next?

Jeff KartClimate, Earth Observation, Original

photo of glory spacecraft before launch

The NASA launch of a Glory satellite to monitor climate change didn’t go as planned on Friday, and the satellite ended up somewhere in the South Pacific. This isn’t the first mishap for Glory or NASA, but the space agency plans to move forward.

photo of glory spacecraft before launch

The Taurus XL rocket in its launch configuration. Credit: NASA

Preliminary information suggests the unsuccessful launch into orbit was due to a failure in the Taurus XL rocket. The rocket underwent a redesign of its fairing separation system after a similar failure two years ago involving the Orbiting Carbon Observatory. That redesigned system had worked successfully in more recent launches. But not on Friday.
NASA has already created a Mishap Investigation Board to look further into the cause of the failure.
“This is a very sad day for the Goddard family, and for the Earth science community at large,” Rob Strain, Goddard Space Flight Center director, said in a statement.
He added, “We will get to the bottom of this and move forward with clarity.”
In a post on, NASA climate modeller Gavin Schmidt called Glory “one of the most important (and most delayed) satellite launches in ages.”
The post notes that we know a lot about climate change, but Glory would have put valuable equipment into orbit to help us distinguish between anthropogenic and natural aerosols.
“Working from space is hard, expensive and risky,” Gavin continued. “We cannot take it for granted, and yet we need that information more than ever.
The Glory project, covered previously by Earthzine, was intended to provide new details about the total solar energy entering our Earth’s atmosphere, and about aerosols that reflect and absorb the sun’s rays.
The next Taurus rocket launch is scheduled for 2013, but that may change now, according to NASA Earth Science Director Mike Freilich.
The loss of Glory will hamper efforts to project and model future climate change impacts, Freilich tells The Associated Press. Another NASA satellite that can look for aerosols isn’t due to launch until the end of the decade.