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Jason DavisFebruary 12, 2015

In Pictures: DSCOVR Headed for Deep Space

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

SpaceX

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.

NASA

Falcon 9 and DSCOVR liftoff

SpaceX

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

NOAA

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

SpaceX

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

SpaceX

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

SpaceX

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).

Read more: commercial spaceflight, pretty pictures, solar observing spacecraft

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Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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