On Wednesday (Australian Time) SpaceX will attempt to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite on behalf of the US Air Force and NOAA. It will be a case of third time lucky if the Falcon 9 lifts off from the Cape Canaveral launch pad at approximately 10am AEDST after earlier attempts were aborted due to issues with a tracking radar and poor weather. The mission will also be the second attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship, a floating land pad currently positioned off Florida’s East Coast.
The DSCOVR satellite is designed to detect waves of solar wind approaching the earth that could generate powerful geomagnetic storms around the Earth. The satellite will be positioned at the Lagrange Point or L1 that is a gravitationally stable point about a million miles away from the Earth directly in line with the sun.
The idea for the satellite was conceived by former Vice-President Al Gore, and was originally manifested to fly on the space shuttle Columbia’s STS-107 mission, that ended with the ship’s destruction and the loss of its seven-person crew in February 2003. Since then the satellite has been in storage until it was deemed suitable to replace NASA’s aging Advanced Composition Explorer, which launched in 1997 and is now well beyond its design life, as a source of solar wind data.