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By Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times

NASA scrubbed the launch of a Delta II rocket Tuesday, 46 seconds before it was to carry the agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite into orbit.

The space agency blamed a failure of the water suppression system of the liftoff pad at Vandenberg Air Force Station.

The launch has been tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday.

Five years ago, the first version of the satellite was destroyed after it failed to separate from its launch vehicle, an Orbital Taurus XL rocket, and burned up as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. The cost of that mission was $209 million, according to a NASA investigation.

The $465 million replacement set to launch Wednesday would measure and map carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth’s oceans, soils and forests absorb CO2, and whether that ability is changing, according to the space agency.

The satellite’s nickname, OCO, comes from the scientific annotation for a carbon dioxode molecule — two oxygen atoms flanking a carbon atom in linear fashion.

Photo: Luke Bryant via Flickr

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