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In Pictures: DSCOVR Headed for Deep Space

Posted By Jason Davis

12-02-2015 9:48 CST

Topics: commercial spaceflight, pretty pictures, solar observing spacecraft

On Wednesday evening, with the sun low on the horizon opposite Florida’s Atlantic coast, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketed into orbit with DSCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory. DSCOVR, a joint mission between NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force, lifted off at 6:03 p.m. EST (23:03 UTC). The spacecraft was deposited into a parking orbit bound for Lagrangian Point 1 (L1), a gravitationally balanced spot between the Earth and sun 1.6 million kilometers away. This was SpaceX’s first mission to interplanetary space.

SpaceX had hoped to attempt a landing of the Falcon 9's first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the company reported Wednesday afternoon that three-story waves and a faulty ship thruster had stymied the attempt. Nonetheless, CEO Elon Musk said the booster soft-landed in the Atlantic vertically, within 10 meters of its predicted landing spot—increasing the odds of success for future tries in better weather. Additionally, Musk said SpaceX was planning to upgrade the drone ship to handle "literally anything."

Liftoff of DSCOVR


Liftoff of DSCOVR
The DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory lifts off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


Falcon 9 and DSCOVR liftoff


Falcon 9 and DSCOVR liftoff
The DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory will observe the sun, providing advance warning for geomagnetic solar storms that disrupt Earth’s power grid.
DSCOVR climbs toward space


DSCOVR climbs toward space
Following a sunset launch, a SpaceX Falcon 9 carries the DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory toward space.
DSCOVR contrail


DSCOVR contrail
An exhaust contrail forms behind a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it pushes the DSCOVR satellite toward space.
Falcon 9 splashdown


Falcon 9 splashdown
SpaceX reported three-story waves in the Atlantic Ocean, preventing an attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on a drone ship. However, the rocket was still guided to a controlled splashdown. Here, deployable grid fins can be seen stabilizing the vehicle just before impact.
En route to L1


En route to L1
An aft-facing camera captures a view of Earth as the Falcon 9 upper stage pushes DSCOVR out of low-Earth orbit toward Lagrangian Point 1 (L1).
See other posts from February 2015


Read more blog entries about: commercial spaceflight, pretty pictures, solar observing spacecraft


Squirreltape: 02/12/2015 05:05 CST

Go SpaceX... the 'enroute to L1' image is amazing. Congratulations Mr Musk and team!

Bob Ware: 02/12/2015 09:26 CST

Another great success for SpaceX! Congratulations!! I have 1 question: Was the launch imaging ground and or chase aircraft based? Thanks.

hankering: 02/15/2015 05:51 CST

> En route to L1 What's the angle of the 'full earth' camera? Will it be on a clock (one picture every 2 hours) or is there any option for a rapid series of stills, e.g. for a lunar eclipse or occultation? I'm very curious what was negotiated away from the original "live video stream" planned -- different camera? Different allocation of the onboard storage or transmission time/bandwidth? Did the Air Force get a better camera along with the other equipment they put on board? And where will the images be available? Grateful for the one rear-facing camera snapshot, but please, sir, may I have a little more?

Tom: 02/18/2015 11:28 CST

What orbital path does DSCOVR follow on its way to L1? I haven't seen that anywhere.

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