After way too many stops, starts and scrubs, SpaceX launched NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (aka DSCOVR) on Wednesday evening.
DSCOVR is a $340 million project designed to keep an electronic-type eye on solar flares and geomagnetic storms. With DSCOVR -- a project that NASA worked on with the US Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- in its distant orbit, it will become the nation's first operational satellite in deep space, orbiting between Earth and the sun at a location called the first Lagrange point, or L1, according to a NASA release.
DSCOVR was actually originally one of former-Vice President Al Gore's big ideas -- then called Triana -- but former-President George W. Bush cancelled the project when he got in office. Never an entity to be deterred -- or to throw anything away -- NASA took the project out of mothballs and refurbished the instruments to jibe with President Barack Obama's focus on more Earth-centric missions.
The deep space observatory was launched at 6:03 p.m. Wednesday (though we were honestly wondering if the thing would ever get launched after the two previously scheduled launches were scrubbed earlier this week) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. While SpaceX made an attempt to launch and land a Falcon 9 rocket back in January company officials announced they weren't going to try out their reusable rocket technology this time around. Not because it doesn't exactly work yet, mind you. It's only the weather:
"The drone ship was designed to operate in all but the most extreme weather. We are experiencing just such weather in the Atlantic with waves reaching up to three stories in height crashing over the decks. Also, only three of the drone ship's four engines are functioning, making station-keeping in the face of such wave action extremely difficult. The rocket will still attempt a soft landing in the water through the storm (producing valuable landing data), but survival is highly unlikely."
Anyway, the actual launch went off without a hitch and now DSCOVR is on its way to L1. The trip will take about 110 days with 40 days of instrument tests immediately following.
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