When a satellite launch fails, it’s a terrible situation for everyone involved. All those years of hard work are literally gone in a flash as the satellite explodes in the sky. While that’s bad on its own, it’s even worse when said satellite is being powered by a plutonium battery.
The Nimbus satellites began travel in 1964. They were designed to be a cutting edge family of machines that could relay an outstanding amount of data to NASA about Earth’s atmosphere.
Even more groundbreaking was that most of these satellites were powered by nuclear batteries…which was fine until one of them crashed not long after being launched.
The Nimbus B-1 rocket booster failed shortly after liftoff in 1968. A faulty guidance system forced the rocket and satellite along with its nuclear power supply to crash into the Pacific Ocean.
Luckily, it takes more than a physical disturbance to cause a nuclear chain reaction. Team were actually able to recover the satellite’s nuclear batteries (pictured below) in their protective covers at the bottom of the ocean.
NASA was even able to reuse these batteries in future satellite launches. That’s the power of American engineering!