NASA Satellite Crashes Back to Earth

A $273 million global warming satellite fell from the skies minutes after launch

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009  |  Updated 1:54 PM CDT
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Amazing Space Photos

A $273 million NASA shuttle plummeted back to Earth Tuesday morning three minutes after its launch.

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Failed Rocket Launch

A new satellite designed to study the earth's carbon levels launched Tuesday morning failed to separate from its rocket.NASA says the satellite did not separate from the rocket after take-off and the failure could jeopardize its mission to better understand climate change.The satellite was supposed to have collected data about carbon dioxide and is meant to help scientists better forecast global climate change.
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A NASA satellite designed for global warming research crashed to earth only three minutes after it launched early Tuesday morning, NASA officials said.

The $273 million satellite launched at 4:55 a.m. EST from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, then plummeted back down when it failed to make orbit. It landed in frigid ocean waters just short of Antarctica.

"Initial indications are the vehicle did not have enough [force] to reach orbit," NASA program manager John Brunschwyler told CNN.

"Certainly for the science community, it's a huge disappointment," NASA program manager John Brunschwyler told CNN.

A part of the satellite called the "payload fairing" that was supposed to separate from the rocket instead stayed attached - and the additional weight of the fairing brought the satellite down, NASA said.

The satellite - also called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory - was designed to collect carbon dioxide measurements in the Earth's atmosphere to better predict movements in global warming.

NASA researchers spent eight years developing the OCO, the first NASA satellite to measure carbon dioxide levels on a global level.

Internal investigations are being conducted to determine more specific causes of the failure.

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