Orbital Sciences' (OSC) 21 September launch of its four-stage Taurus 2110 solid propellant booster from Vandenberg AFB, California failed. The second stage, powered by an Orion 50S motor, veered off course at T+83s and was brought under control but a loss of energy resulted in the eventual separation of its payloads in a low and unsustainable orbit.

The NASA QuickTOMS and Orbimage's Orbview 4 satellites and two containers from the Celestis company, holding the ashes of 50 deceased people, plunged into the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.

OrbView 4 was to have been placed into a 470km (290 mile) sun-synchronous orbit, followed 2.5min later by the deployment of QuickTOMS, which was to have used its own propulsion system to raise its orbit to 800km altitude.

OrbView 4 was to have been the first satellite to provide hyperspectral commercial images. while the ozone monitoring QuickTOMS, based on an OSC MicroStar spacecraft bus, was to have eventually replaced NASA's TOMS satellite, launched in 1996.

The failure was the first by a Taurus flying its sixth mission since 1994.

Source: Flight International