Glory (satellite)

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Glory spacecraft model.png
Artist's impression of Glory
Mission typeClimate research
OperatorNASA / GSFC
Mission durationFailed to orbit
3–5 years planned
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass545 kilograms (1,202 lb)
Power400 watts
Start of mission
Launch date4 March 2011, 10:09:43 (2011-03-04UTC10:09:43Z) UTC
RocketTaurus XL 3110
Launch siteVandenberg LC-576E
ContractorOrbital Sciences
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
On February 23, 2011, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (left) visited the mission's launch site.

The Glory satellite was a planned NASA satellite mission that would have collected data on the chemical, micro-physical and optical properties—and the spatial and temporal distributions—of sulfate and other aerosols, and would have collected solar irradiance data for the long-term climate record. The science focus areas served by Glory included: atmospheric composition; carbon cycle, ecosystems, and biogeochemistry; climate variability and change; and water and energy cycles.[1] The US$424 million satellite was lost on March 4, 2011, when its Taurus XL carrier rocket malfunctioned.[2] A subsequent investigation revealed that the fairing system failed to open fully, causing the satellite to reenter the atmosphere at which point it likely broke up and burned.[3] NASA investigators later determined the cause for the launch failure to be faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer Sapa Profiles.[4]


The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, California, aboard a Taurus XL rocket was originally planned for February 23, 2011.[5] It was postponed due to a malfunction in ground support equipment.[6] The next liftoff attempt was March 4, 2011.[7] The Taurus rocket also carried three small CubeSat satellites built by university students in Montana, Colorado and Kentucky, the NASA ELaNa I manifest.[8]

The launch took place on March 4, 2011, at 2:09:43 am Pacific Standard Time (10:09:43 UTC) from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Taurus XL rocket's first three stages functioned as planned, but the nose cone (also known as the payload fairing) failed to separate 2 minutes 58 seconds after the launch.[9] The nose cone covers and protects the satellite during launch and ascent, and is designed to separate and fall away shortly after the launch. Due to the failure of the nose cone to separate, the rocket remained too heavy to reach the correct orbit. According to launch director Omar Baez, the satellite and launcher likely crashed in the southern Pacific Ocean. The failure was estimated to have cost at least $424 million.[10][11] This only includes the cost of the satellite itself, and not the cost of the launcher and launch services. During the previous failed Taurus XL launch, the vehicle and services were estimated to have cost $54m.[12]

The previous Taurus XL launch with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in February 2009 also ended in a failure due to failed payload fairing separation.[10][13] Following the failed OCO mission, Taurus XL launches were put on hold for two years as the rocket's manufacturer Orbital Sciences Corporation tried to fix the payload fairing separation problem, obviously without success.[14] A British OCO scientist said the loss of Glory was a great blow to the NASA Earth science program, especially since the reason for the launch failure was the same as with OCO.[11]

During a news conference shortly after the launch, Rich Straka from Orbital Sciences Corporation said his company was investigating the failure, noting, "there really isn't enough data to say anything more than the fairing didn't separate."[15]

Scientific instruments[edit]

Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS)
Glory - APS instrument photo - APS-glory-large.jpg The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) is a continuous scanning sensor that has the capability to collect visible, near infrared, and short-wave infrared data scattered from aerosols and clouds. It is designed to make multi-angle observations of Earth and atmospheric scene spectral polarization and radiance.
  • Determine the global distribution of natural and man-made aerosols (black carbons, sulfates, etc.) with accuracy and coverage sufficient for reliable quantification of: the aerosol effect on climate; the anthropogenic component of the aerosol effect; the potential regional trends in natural and man-made aerosols.
  • Determine the direct impact of aerosols on the radiation budget and its natural and anthropogenic components.
  • Determine the effect of aerosols on clouds (microphysics and coverage) and its natural and anthropogenic components.
  • Determine the feasibility of improved techniques for the measurement of black carbon and dust absorption to provide more accurate estimates of their contribution to the climate forcing.
  • Instrument scientist: Brian Cairns / GSFC
Cloud Camera
Glory - CC instrument photo - CC.jpg
The cloud camera is a high-spatial-resolution two-band radiometer intended to facilitate the identification of cloudcontaminated APS pixels and to determine the fraction of the pixel area occupied by clouds. Over ocean, the cloud camera is used to determine aerosol load and fine mode fraction based on the aerosol microphysical model determined from APS measurements. The Cloud Camera is not a separate instrument, rather it is used to identify clouds in the APS nadir pixel.
Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM)
Glory - TIM instrument photo - tim.jpg The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) is an active cavity radiometer that records total solar irradiance. It has four identical radiometers to provide redundancy and to help detect changes in the instrument from exposure to solar radiation. TIM is mounted on a platform that moves the instrument independent of the spacecraft.
  • Instrument scientist: Greg Kopp / GSFC / University of Colorado


  1. ^ Smith, Yvette (February 4, 2008). "NASA FY 2009 Budget Request" (PDF). NASA. pp. Sci-29. Retrieved June 29, 2009.
  2. ^ Roosevelt, Margot (March 9, 2011). "Loss of satellite is 'serious setback' for Earth climate research". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Buck, Joshua (February 19, 2013). "NASA Releases Glory Taurus XL Launch Failure Report Summary". NASA. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Potter, Sean (30 April 2019). "NASA Investigation Uncovers Cause of Science Mission Launch Failures". NASA (Press release).
  5. ^ "Launch Schedule". NASA. December 8, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  6. ^ "NASA Assessing New Launch Dates For The Glory Mission". NASA. February 24, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  7. ^ "NASA's Glory Satellite Scheduled for Launch on March 4". NASA. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "Taurus rocket nose shroud dooms another NASA satellite". Spaceflight Now. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  9. ^ Ned Potter (March 4, 2011). "NASA's Glory Satellite Crashes in Pacific; Agency Blames Nose Cone". ABC News. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "NASA science satellite lost in Taurus launch failure". Spaceflight Now. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Nasa Glory mission ends in failure". BBC News. March 4, 2011.
  12. ^ NASA FY2009 Budget Estimates
  13. ^ "Glory". NASA.
  14. ^ Ian Sample (March 4, 2011). "Taurus rocket carrying Glory climate satellite falls back to Earth". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  15. ^ The Associated Press (March 4, 2011). "NASA's $400 Million Glory Satellite Lost in Pacific Ocean". Fox News. Retrieved March 6, 2011.

External links[edit]