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Launch Date in Limbo for NASA's New Climate Satellite

Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit of 438 miles (705 km) altitude, which is about the distance between Boston and Washington.
Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit of 438 miles (705 km) altitude, which is about the distance between Boston and Washington. (Image credit: NASA)

Launch plans are up in the air for NASA's new Glory spacecraft, which is aimed at studying Earth's atmosphere from space.

The Glory probe was due to lift off Feb. 23 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a Taurus XL rocket, but a computer glitch on the booster halted that attempt. The launch was originally pushed back a day, but now NASA is standing down to let engineers troubleshoot the malfunction before setting a new launch date.

On Feb. 23, NASA received a false indication on the rocket's status after sending commands to activate the Taurus about 15 minutes before launch.

"We had an indication that a 'hold-fire' command was sent when indeed it had not," said Omar Baez, NASA launch director, in a statement.

Engineers have not yet determined the root cause of the issue and continue to troubleshoot it.

The delay is the latest in a string of setbacks for the $424.1 million, 1,160-pound (525 kilogram) spacecraft, which was originally slated to launch last year but was delayed because of a faulty solar array part on the Glory probe.

Mission managers are now evaluating possible opportunities to launch Glory in early to mid-March.

"The Glory spacecraft is doing fine," reported Bryan Fafaul, Glory project manager from NASA's Goddard Space Flight in Greenbelt, Md. "We are continuing to slow charge the battery until we have a new launch date."

The probe will study how radiation from the sun, along with small particles called aerosols, affect Earth's atmosphere and climate.

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Clara Moskowitz
Clara Moskowitz

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.