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Taurus launch declared failure, spacecraft feared lost
Posted: Fri, Sep 21, 2001, 8:12 PM ET (0012 GMT)
Taurus launch (Orbital file photo) A problem during the flight of a Taurus launch vehicle Friday afternoon has apparently led to the loss of its payload of two spacecraft. The Taurus lifted off on schedule at 2:49 pm EDT (1849 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. However, the booster appeared to veer off course for several seconds after jettisoning its first stage, raising concerns from observers that something had gone wrong. After a long period of silence, launch officials did confirm that there had been a problem during the first stage separation, and that while the booster was able to reorient itself, it was unlikely it was able to reach the required altitude and velocity. This means the spacecraft's payload, the OrbView-4 commercial remote sensing satellite and NASA's QuickTOMS ozone monitoring spacecraft, likely failed to reach orbit and reentered the Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. The booster also carried a payload of cremated remains for Celestis. The failure would be the first in six launches for the Taurus, operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation. An investigation into the failure is expected to begin immediately.
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