Former Vice President Al Gore speaks to reporters at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the first launch attempt of the Deep Space Climate Observatory on Feb. 8, 2015, 17 years after Gore championed an earlier version of the mission called Triana.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
In 1998, then-Vice President Al Gore (who attended Sunday's launch try) championed the Triana satellite as a way to beam live, constant views of Earth from space for scientific study and educational uses. But by 2001, the mission was scrapped, and the fully built satellite mothballed and placed in storage.
"Politics got in the way and the mission was canceled, " Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) told reporters before launch in an ad hoc interview with Gore . "After 17 years, that's nothing."
Today, the satellite is designed primary to serve as a space weather early-warning system stationed about 1 million miles from Earth at Lagrange 1, a point in space directly between the Earth and sun. There, the satellite will be able to detect major solar storms that could interfere with aviation, navigation systems and power grids on Earth and give scientists up to a 60-minute lead on severe space weather events. The $340 million mission has a two-year primary lifespan, but could last up to five years depending on how much fuel it uses.
Engineers test the solar arrays on the NOAA/NASA Deep Space Climate Observatory, a satellite designed to serve as an early warning system for solar storms launching in February 2015.
Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
The refrigerator-sized DSCOVR will join NASA's aging Advanced Composition Explorer satellite and the U.S.-European Solar and Heliospheric Observatory at the L1 position. Those older satellites also monitor the sun for space weather but are well past their prime, NASA and NOAA officials have said. DSCOVR can detect events a bit faster and serve as a backup to those aging satellites, according to Tom Berger, director of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
DSCOVR also carries to Earth-watching instruments to study our home planet from space. One of those tools — the Enhanced Polychromatic Imaging Camera — will take photos of the sunlit Earth from L1 and beam them to Earth daily. The photos will be posted online for scientists and the public about 24 hours after they are taken, NASA officials have said.
If SpaceX is unable to launch the DSCOVR satellite on Monday, two other opportunities are available on Tuesday and Wednesday, NASA spokesman Mike Curie said during launch commentary.
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