Taurus XL
Launch vehicle Taurus XL
Launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA
Date/Time 2011-03-04 1009 UTC
Description Payload fairing separation failure
Cause unknown
Payload Glory
Desired orbit Sun-synchronous, near-polar


The payload fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. Owing to the fairing's mass the satellite did not reach orbit and crashed into the ocean. The rocket and the satellite were both manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corp.

NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure. The launch proceeded as planned from its lift-off at 1009 UTC through the ignition of the Taurus XL's second stage. However, the fairing failure occurred during the second stage engine burn. It is likely the spacecraft fell into the South Pacific, although the exact location is not yet known.

Orbital said it would immediately convene a failure investigation board that will include representative from the company and NASA to determine the cause of the launch failure. Orbital believes that it is likely that sufficient data was gathered to be able to determine the cause of the fairing separation failure.

NASA's previous launch attempt of an Earth science spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory onboard a Taurus XL on 24 February 2009, also failed to reach orbit when the fairing did not separate.

See also:

Last updated: 05 March 2011

Launch Failures Chronology