Launch vehicle Taurus
Launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base, USA
Date/Time 2001-09-21
Description Second stage partial failure
Cause Stuck actuator
Payload QuikTOMS, OrbView 4
Desired orbit Low-Earth orbit

NASA lost its ozone-monitoring QuikTOMS satellite at a cost of US$50 million, including US$11 million for its share of the launch. Orbital Imaging Corp. lost its OrbView-4 satellite, which was designed to take high-resolution images of the Earth for sale.

Orbital president J R Thompson said during a conference call that an actuator drive shaft seized up after the second stage of the Taurus ignited. The actuator, which controls the steering mechanism for the second stage engine, started working again after five seconds and the rocket went back on course.

Those five seconds, however, made the vehicle lose so much energy that the payloads did not end up in stable orbits and probably burnt up during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

The four-stage, ground-launched Taurus had made five successful launches since 1994, putting nine satellites into orbit.

Launch Failures Chronology