VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CA (KFVS, AP, CNN, CBS) - The Glory spacecraft and Taurus XL rocket lifted off this morning on time at 4:09:43 a.m. CST.
But today's launch has ended in a huge disappointment for NASA. The space agency says the Glory spacecraft and Taurus XL rocket launched this morning did not make it into orbit.
According to NASA, data from the spacecraft indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch.
Shortly after 7 a.m. a NASA spokesman said it looks like the rocket with the Glory satellite is now in the Pacific Ocean.
The rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California early Friday. There was some fog in the forecast, but NASA didn't expect it to affect the launch.
The Glory's first launch attempt was scrubbed last week due to ground support issues. The mission had been designed to help scientists better understand the Earth's climate. Its focus was to study tiny atmospheric particles called "aerosols" and their relationship to the sun.
CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood reports this was the second failure in a row for a Taurus XL rocket. NASA's $273 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory was lost during launch Feb. 24, 2009, when it suffered a similar nose cone fairing failure.
Orbital Sciences redesigned the system in the wake of that failure and it has flown successfully three times since then on the company's Minotaur rocket.
But the back-to-back Taurus XL failures have resulted in losses totaling nearly $700 million.