NASA Taps Orbital for Second OCO Launch

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WASHINGTON — NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch the agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) replacement satellite aboard a Taurus XL rocket, giving the company a second chance after the original spacecraft was lost in a February 2009 failure involving the same launch vehicle.

That failure occurred after the vehicle’s protective shroud failed to separate properly, and the satellite went crashing into the ocean near Antarctica. Company officials later attributed the problem to a defective component and said it would be relatively easy to fix.

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital built both the original and replacement OCO craft, designed to take measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. The original was built at a cost of $209 million.

The replacement spacecraft is expected to launch in February 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., according to a June 22 NASA news release. The launch contract is valued at approximately $70 million, a sum that includes payload processing, mission support, launch integration and tracking, data and telemetry support, the release states.