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.
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
Following a sunset launch, a SpaceX Falcon 9 carries the DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory toward space.
An exhaust contrail forms behind a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it pushes the DSCOVR satellite toward space.
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
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).