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Charlene AndersonJuly 21, 2009

Orbiting Carbon Observatory Mishap Report Released

by Charlene Anderson

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), a NASA satellite that was to have monitored the sources and sinks of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere, never reached orbit after its launch vehicle failed.  NASA has released the official report on the “mishap.”

The fairing that protected the satellite from the effects of traveling through the atmosphere at launch speeds failed to release OCO, sending it on to destruction. A summary report of the investigation board’s findings is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/oco

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)

NASA/JPL

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)

CO was designed to track the Earth's carbon cycle and increase scientists' understanding of climate change. Launched on February 24, 2009, it failed to reach orbit and plunged back to Earth.
At that web site, you can also find a NASA document, “Future Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Observations,” that details the scientific needs for a satellite like OCO, and why we must find some way to replace its capabilities.  The Planetary Society is closely watching these developments and will let you know when NASA decides whether to re-fly OCO or find some other way to get the data that are absolutely necessary to understanding how carbon, in its primary atmospheric form of carbon dioxide, is affecting Earth’s climate.

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