NASA Not Risking Another In-Orbit Failure; Delays Launch of Glory Satellite

[Satellite TODAY Insider 10-07-10] NASA has delayed the launch of its Glory climate change detection satellite due to a problem with a control mechanism in one of its two solar arrays, the agency announced Oct. 6.
    The Glory satellite, built by Orbital Sciences and worth more than $400 million, originally was scheduled for launch an Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in late November. The mission  now has been postponed until Feb. 23.
    The technical error was reported on two of the satellite’s deployable solar array wings, which have X- and S-band RF communications capabilities. The structure consists of an octagonal aluminum space frame and a blow-down hydrazine propulsion module that contains enough fuel for the satellite’s 36-month mission.
     NASA said it is not taking any chances with the satellite after its previous satellite research tool, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), failed shortly after its February 2009 launch on a Taurus XL rocket when a fairing designed to protect the payload from heat failed to separate. Following the failure, a NASA board of inquiry determined four possible causes of the fairing separation failure. This time, NASA will take the three months to review both the Glory spacecraft and its Taurus XL launcher.
    Glory was implemented to replace the OCO and specialize in monitoring aerosols in the atmosphere and total solar irradiance — key factors in climate change. “Though sometimes a payload’s fairing is unavoidably damaged during ascent, engineers try to take every precaution and plan for any scenario. If a solar array fails to deploy properly, the craft’s power supply can become compromised, jeopardizing the mission,” NASA said in a statement.
    While U.S. Air Force officials told Satellite TODAY Insider that they do not yet know the delay’s impact to its Vandenberg launch schedule, it is not expected to push back the launch of two U.S. National Reconnaissance Office payloads on Minotaur 1 and Atlas 5 rockets, scheduled to lift off between March and May of 2011.

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