At 2:49 p.m. EDT today Orbital's Taurus rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying NASA's QuikTOMS ozone monitoring satellite, ORBIMAGE'S OrbView-4 high-resolution imaging satellite. and the Celestis EarthView 04 capsule containing the remains of Celestis participants from around the world.
At a minute and thirty seconds into the launch. as the first stage separated and the second stage ignited. the rocket appeared to veer off course briefly. However, as the launch proceeded, mission control reported all was nominal. After analyzing the data, Orbital now says it appears the satellites did not reach orbit. The QuikTOMS, EarthView 04, and OrbView-4 satellites appear to be lost having either burned up in the atmosphere or crashing into the ocean.
NASA's Quick Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (QuikTOMS) would have monitored global ozone levels in both the Arctic and the Antarctic as well as sulfur dioxide, ash, smoke from fires, and ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface.
OrbView-4's high-resolution camera would have acquired one-meter resolution panchromatic (black and white) and four-meter resolution multispectral (color) imagery. Hyperspectral imagery is useful in classifying material types on the Earth's surface, a capability that that could be beneficial in agricultural management, mineral exploration and environmental monitoring.
Celestis EarthView 4 included small capsules containing the remains of people who have always dreamed of going into space. This was Celestis' fourth launch. Among the capsules for today's launch was one carrying the ashes of Mareta West. West was a lunar geologist for NASA who determined the crucial site for the first landing on the moon.
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