A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into orbit at 6:03 p.m. EST (2303 GMT) carrying the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a satellite designed to serve as an early-warning system for potentially dangerous solar storms. SpaceX was initially schedule to deliver the satellite on Sunday, but a series of delays pushed the launch to today. Video of the SpaceX launch showed the rocket soaring serenely into the sunset sky above its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida.
After delivering the satellite to space, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage was initially expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere for a landing attempt on a SpaceX drone ship parked in the Atlantic. Representatives with the spaceflight company, however, decided not to attempt the drone ship landing due to bad weather in the ocean at the landing site. [See the DSCOVR mission in photos]
"The Falcon takes flight! Propelling the Deep Space Climate Observatory on a million-mile journey to protect our planet Earth, " explained NASA spokesman Mike Curie during launch commentary. "A beautiful ascent."
SpaceX did manage to bring the rocket stage back for a soft ocean landing Wednesday, as it has done during previous Falcon 9 launches, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said.
"Rocket soft landed in the ocean within 10m of target & nicely vertical! High probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather, " Musk said via Twitter Wednesday.
The company attempted to land a Falcon 9 rocket first stage on the ship last month, but the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid for its four grid steering fins. It ultimately reached the drone ship, but landed hard, crashing and exploding in a brilliant fireball.
Musk christened the drone ship originally scheduled to be used for this landing try "Just Read the Instructions" after the sentient colony ship of the same name in the novels of science fiction author Iain M. Banks.
DSCOVR finally reaches space
The DSCOVR satellite is a partnership of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force and has been in the works for more than 10 years. The satellite was originally approved in 1998 under the name Triana as a NASA Earth science mission championed by then-Vice President Al Gore for its mission to beam live views of the sunlit of Earth for science and educational purposes.
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