Two years after Russian citizens watched in awe as an
Al Gore may still receive a fair amount of ribbing over his claims of inventing the internet, but one of his brainchilds lives. The NOAA Satellite and Information Service has been working to launch a satellite that would provide continuous views of the Earth for the internet.
The Space X Falcon 8 Rocket, DSCOVR, has failed to meet its planned Sunday launch from Cape Canaveral. The attempt was cancelled because of a tracking issue, which had to do with the first stage transmitter and range radar. NOAA will try to launch again Monday if weather conditions permit, and there are still plenty of opportunities to try again later this year.
What will this rocket do once launched? DSCOVR is short for “Deep Space Climate Observatory,” which aims to provide “dramatic whole Earth views.” That’s only the satellite’s secondary purpose. The more important, primary goal of DSCOVR will be to replace an aging NASA satellite that tracks space weather data. In doing so, DSCOVR will help scientists capture early warning of dangerous solar storms that could affect life on Earth.
The planned mission arrives at a cost of $340 million. Once the satellite successfully achieves orbit, the benefits shall be worth the hefty price tag. Tom Berger, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, says, “DSCOVR will provide the observations necessary to help us deliver warnings and alerts to industries affected by space weather so they can take action to protect infrastructure and be more resilient in the face of severe events.”
A previous landing attempt of DSCOVR failed after the Space X rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid and was unable to stabilize during landing, thus exploding in the process. NOAA gives the next launch attempt a 50/50 chance at success. We won’t know if it succeeds for over three months when the satellite reaches Lagrange Point 1 (about a million miles away from the Earth). Once there, DSCOVR will monitor solar wind and also capture the much-awaited hi-res photos of Earth to keep the public’s attention alive.
Pretty pictures aside, DSCOVR’s mission could provide valuable data to deliver proper warning of the Sun’s coronal mass ejections (CMES) toward Earth. CMEs are responsible for the largest geomagnetic storms, which can disrupt satellites, damage power grid equipment, and endanger flight communications. Advance notice (about 1 hour) of these storms shall help officials and the public prepare and take proper precautions.