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Rocket carrying observation satellite believed to have crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean
A NASA rocket carrying a satellite designed to observe climate change failed to reach orbit on Friday and was expected to crash into the ocean.
The space agency said the Taurus XL rocket malfunctioned minutes after blasting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
"Glory Launch: It looks like we have a problem with launch. Standby ..." NASA posted on its Twitter account. It later added in a statement: "Telemetry indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch."
The fate of the rocket and its payload — an Earth-observing satellite known as "Glory" — were not immediately known, but NASA said the its trajectory indicated a crash landing in the southern Pacific Ocean.
According to the BBC, the failure is identical to a technical problem that hit Nasa's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) when it launched on the last Taurus XL rocket mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2009.
The Glory satellite had been carrying instruments to measure the energy produced by the sun and to examine particles in the atmosphere that trap energy or disperse it back into space — observations that would help predict future climate change.
"This is another big blow for the Nasa Earth science programme, particularly because the reason for the failure appears to be the same as that which affected the OCO launch," British OCO scientist Paul Palmer from Edinburgh University told the BBC.
"It's also sad news for the climate community. Glory promised to provide important information we desperately need for better understanding Earth's radiative balance.
"Sometimes we forget because we rely on satellites every day that launching instruments into an Earth orbit is still a risky business and that we should expect a few failures."
NASA scheduled a press conference on the mission's failure later Friday.
— Barry Neild