A $270 million Nasa satellite dedicated to measuring the world's carbon emissions failed to reach orbit yesterday.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) satellite failed shortly after liftoff when the fairing - which protects the satellite as it speeds through the atmosphere - failed to separate.
It had lifted off on a Taurus XL launch rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base early Tuesday morning local time.
The LEOStar-2 satellite landed in the sea near Antarctica, John Brunschwyler, manager of the Taurus program, told a press conference.
"The fairing has considerable weight relative to the portion of the vehicle that's flying. So when it separates off, you get a jump in acceleration. We did not have that jump in acceleration," Brunschwyler said.
"As a direct result of carrying that extra weight, we could not make orbit."
The satellite was intended to help provide the first complete picture of carbon sources and "sinks" - where carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere and stored. The planned launch of a second satellite, scheduled for June, was put on-hold, Nasa said.
Nasa said an investigation team would be established to determine the cause of the failure.