Mission controllers revealed Wednesday that they cannot find the $220-million Landsat 6 satellite that was launched Tuesday.
An orbiting object they identified as the errant spacecraft shortly after launch turned out not to be Landsat 6, said Tim Tomastik, acting director of public affairs for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"We do not know right now where Landsat 6 is," Tomastik said.
The Landsat 6 satellite was sent aloft aboard a Titan IIG rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday and was supposed to go into a polar orbit for a five-year mission at a total cost of $513 million.
But the satellite did not make contact with controllers as planned 75 minutes after launch, and repeated passes over ground stations in Norman, Okla., and Sweden produced no contact, mission controllers said.
NOAA and Earth Observation Satellite Co., which was running the Landsat 6 mission for NOAA, had said later Tuesday that the North American Air Defense Command had spotted the satellite in orbit. That object later proved not to be Landsat 6.
Mike Mignogno, Landsat program manager at the launch site, said the Air Force was in contact with the Titan for 690 seconds after launch and it performed as expected.
After the two-stage rocket was expended, the satellite was supposed to separate and be pushed into proper orbit by a smaller "kick motor" guided by on-board software.
Mignogno said it was not known if separation occurred, but controllers were assuming it had and were searching along the predicted orbital path.