NASA Releases Orbiting Carbon Observatory Accident Summary

July 17, 2009
On Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory, OCO, upper stack is lowered toward the Stage 0 motor of the Taurus XL vehicle. Image credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

(PhysOrg.com) -- A NASA panel that investigated the unsuccessful Feb. 24 launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, has completed its report.

NASA's OCO satellite to study launched aboard a Taurus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 24 at 4:55 a.m. EST, but it failed to reach orbit.

The Mishap Investigation Board led by Rick Obenschain, deputy director at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., verified that the Taurus fairing failed to separate upon command. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere. The failure to shed the fairing mass prevented the satellite from reaching its planned orbit and resulted in its destruction.

The board identified four potential causes that could have resulted in the fairing not separating:

* A failure of the frangible joint subsystem. A frangible joint is an explosive device that provides instantaneous separation of flight vehicle structures while maintaining confinement of explosive debris.
* A failure in the electrical subsystem that prevented sufficient electrical current to initiate the required ordnance devices.
* A failure in the pneumatic system, which supplies pressure to thrusters which separate the fairing.
* A cord snagged on a frangible joint side rail nut plate.

The panel also provided recommendations to prevent any future problems associated with the four hardware components that could have caused the OCO accident.

The six-member board began its investigation in early March. The panel conducted hardware testing; performed and reviewed engineering analysis and simulation data; reviewed telemetry data; collected and secured more than 2,000 documents; and conducted 78 interviews of critical personnel associated with the mission.

The official report of the board contains information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company sensitive proprietary information. As a result, the board has prepared a summary of its report, which provides an overview of publicly releasable findings and recommendations regarding the OCO mission failure. The summary is available at: www.nasa.gov/oco .

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: Roscosmos To Investigate ArabSat Orbit Error

Related Stories

Roscosmos To Investigate ArabSat Orbit Error

March 13, 2006

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has formed a state commission to investigate the anomaly last week that caused a Proton Breeze M vehicle to place the ArabSat 4A satellite into an incorrect orbit. The commission, led ...

NASA Releases DART Accident Report Summary

May 16, 2006

NASA released a summary Monday of the findings about why its Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology spacecraft did not complete its mission and collided with the intended rendezvous satellite on April 15, 2005.

NOAA-N prime satellite arrives at Vandenberg for launch

November 4, 2008

The latest polar-orbiting operational environmental weather satellite developed by NASA for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, called NOAA-N Prime, arrived Tuesday by C-5A military cargo aircraft ...

Orbiting Carbon Observatory Set for Feb. 24 Launch

February 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket set to launch NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory is now fully assembled at Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Recommended for you

Dawn spacecraft sends sharper scenes from Ceres

August 25, 2015

The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

Interstellar seeds could create oases of life

August 27, 2015

We only have one example of a planet with life: Earth. But within the next generation, it should become possible to detect signs of life on planets orbiting distant stars. If we find alien life, new questions will arise. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.