Glory (satellite)

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Glory spacecraft.jpg
Artist's impression of Glory orbiting Earth.
Mission type Climate research
Operator NASA / GSFC
Mission duration Failed to orbit
3–5 years planned
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass 545 kilograms (1,202 lb)
Power 400 watts
Start of mission
Launch date 4 March 2011, 10:09:43 (2011-03-04UTC10:09:43Z) UTC
Rocket Taurus XL 3110
Launch site Vandenberg LC-576E
Contractor Orbital Sciences
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Epoch Planned
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]


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

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.[8] 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.[9][10] 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.[11]

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.[9][12] 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.[13] 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.[10]

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."[14]

Scientific instruments

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 (website)
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.


  1. Smith, Yvette (February 4, 2008). "NASA FY 2009 Budget Request" (PDF). NASA. pp. Sci-29. Retrieved June 29, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Roosevelt, Margot (March 9, 2011). "Loss of satellite is 'serious setback' for Earth climate research". Los Angeles Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Buck, Joshua (February 19, 2013). "NASA Releases Glory Taurus XL Launch Failure Report Summary". NASA. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  4. "Launch Schedule". NASA. December 8, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "NASA Assessing New Launch Dates For The Glory Mission". NASA. February 24, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "NASA's Glory Satellite Scheduled for Launch on March 4". NASA. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Taurus rocket nose shroud dooms another NASA satellite". Spaceflight Now. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Ned Potter (March 4, 2011). "NASA's Glory Satellite Crashes in Pacific; Agency Blames Nose Cone". ABC News. Retrieved March 4, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 "NASA science satellite lost in Taurus launch failure". Spaceflight Now. March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Nasa Glory mission ends in failure". BBC News. March 4, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. NASA FY2009 Budget Estimates
  12. "Glory". NASA.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Ian Sample (March 4, 2011). "Taurus rocket carrying Glory climate satellite falls back to Earth". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. The Associated Press (March 4, 2011). "NASA's $400 Million Glory Satellite Lost in Pacific Ocean". Fox News. Retrieved March 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links