SpaceX Launches DSCOVR; Scraps Rocket Recovery

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It will take the DSCOVR about 110 days to reach its operational station

SpaceX has successfully launched the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) on Wednesday. The company had previously delayed the launch three times due to radar tracking issues and extreme weather conditions. SpaceX’s unmanned Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 6:03 p.m. ET Wednesday at Cape Canaveral under clear skies.

DSCOVR will be used to monitor solar activity

The refrigerator-sized DSCOVR ejected from the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage about 36 minutes later. Its solar arrays deployed properly to power the satellite. SpaceX said in a statement that the DSCOVR was in good health. However, it will take the spacecraft another 110 days to reach its operational station about one million miles away from the Earth.

The deep space mission will monitor solar activity. First envisioned by former Vice President Al Gore in 1998, the mission was jointly developed by NASA, the Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It will provide warnings of solar storms that could potentially disrupt communications, power grids, air travel and space satellites.

SpaceX abandoned rocket recovery due to rough seas

SpaceX was forced to abandon its bid to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a floating barge due to rough seas. The company has tried similar maneuvers in the past, but with little success. The floating platform was placed over 200 miles off the coast of Florida, but it was not designed to work in extreme weather conditions.

SpaceX said that waves of the Atlantic Ocean reached up to three stories in height. The 14-story rocket booster landed in the Atlantic Ocean within 10 meters of its target, and it was “nicely vertical,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk. It indicates that there is a high probability of good landing on the floating platform in non-stormy weather.

Recovering the first stage of the rocket and reusing it could help SpaceX dramatically reduce the cost of future launches. Last time the company tried to land the rocket booster on a ship, it ran out of hydraulic fluid right before hitting the ship hard.

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