SpaceX Sends NOAA’s DSCOVR On a Million-Mile Journey

Third time was definitely a charm today for SpaceX, NASA, and NOAA as the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket after two scrubbed attempts. Liftoff occurred at 6:03 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 11 into a clear sky as the Sun was setting – a truly picturesque backdrop for what turned out to be a perfect launch. Visibility was good enough to catch sight of the first stage separation and payload fairing jettison from the ground!

Watch the video replay above of the launch from the NASA TV feed.

DSCOVR will journey outwards to its destination at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1 (L1), located nearly a million miles away from Earth toward the Sun. There it will insert into a stable orbit from where it can observe both the Sun and Earth, monitoring various aspects of Earth’s climate as well as keeping an eye on potentially disruptive solar storms up to a full hour before they arrive at Earth.

DSCOVR's orbit diagram
DSCOVR’s orbit diagram

“Located in line between the sun and the Earth, DSCOVR will be a point of early warning whenever it detects a surge of energy that could trigger a geomagnetic storm destined for Earth,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “According to the National Academies of Sciences, a major solar storm has the potential to cost upwards of $2 trillion, disrupting telecommunications, GPS systems, and the energy grid. As the nation’s space weather prediction agency, when DSCOVR is fully operational and our new space weather forecast models are in place, we will be able to provide vital information to industries and communities to help them prepare for these storms.”

View from the Falcon 9 second stage carrying DSCOVR away from Earth, Feb. 11, 2015 (Credit: SpaceX)
View from the Falcon 9 second stage carrying DSCOVR away from Earth, Feb. 11, 2015 (Credit: SpaceX)

DSCOVR will succeed NASA’s Advanced Composition Explore’s (ACE) role in supporting solar wind alerts and warnings.

It will take about 115 days for DSCOVR to arrive at L1. Launched by SpaceX for the US Air Force and refurbished and operated by NASA, spacecraft command will be handed over to NOAA this summer. Data gathered by DSCOVR will be distributed around the country and around the world.

This was SpaceX’s first Falcon 9 launch for the Department of Defense and its most far-flying mission to date.

Read more about DSCOVR here and here.

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