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Rocket fails to reach orbit; likely crashes into ocean

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Glory mission launch fails
  • NEW: Rocket, satellite thought to be in Pacific
  • A spacecraft contingency was declared about six minutes after launch
  • The spacecraft will not reach orbit

(CNN) -- A satellite and the unmanned rocket that carried it apparently crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning, NASA said.

A protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket did not separate as planned, slowing the rocket and preventing it from going into orbit, NASA officials said, citing initial information. The rocket carried a satellite, known as Glory, that was to have collected information to help scientists better understand the Earth's climate.

The satellite and rocket apparently fell into the southern Pacific, they said.

"This is a pretty tough night for all of us," said NASA official Ron Grabe.

NASA rocket fails to reach orbit
  • NASA

The mission was designed to collect data that scientists planned to use to better understand how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect the Earth's climate.

NASA went into contingency mode about six minutes into the launch at 5:09 a.m. ET.

"Glory Launch: It looks like we have a problem with launch. Standby," NASA said on Twitter. "The launch team is working through its launch contingency plan, including collecting data from the launch."