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Taurus is OCO's Ride to Space
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NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, is set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a four-stage Taurus XL rocket.

Both the spacecraft and the launch vehicle were built by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Most of the Taurus vehicle -- Stages 1, 2 and 3 -- arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California back in June 2008.

Stage 0 arrived November 3, followed by the nearly 1,000-pound OCO satellite November 11.

In December, OCO's systems and science instruments were tested and the software was loaded into the Taurus flight computer.

The spacecraft was fueled in mid-January 2009, and the Taurus rocket's thermal blanket and avionics subsystem were installed.

Stage 2 of the Taurus was attached to the avionics module January 26, and the two joined with Stage 1 the next day.

On January 29, the rocket's first stage, called Stage 0, was lifted into position at Launch Complex 576-East.

The "upper stack" -- consisting of Stages 1, 2 and 3 -- arrived at the launch complex February 3.

The three-by-seven-foot OCO spacecraft was safely enclosed inside the protective payload fairing and moved to the launch site.

With all the hardware elements gathered at the launch complex, technicians attached the payload fairing to the upper stack.

Then, on February 18, the entire assembly was hoisted into place atop Stage 0.

With these prelaunch milestones complete, the OCO spacecraft and Taurus XL vehicle are ready for launch -- beginning a two-year mission to sniff out Earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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