DSCOVR launch

Saturday, 7 February 2015 - 21:40 UTC

DSCOVR launch

Tomorrow will be an exciting day for every space weather enthusiast out there as the Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR will launch into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. DSCOVR will be operated by NOAA and is set to succeed the role of NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) in providing real-time solar wind data from the L1 orbit which is the neutral gravity point between the Earth and the Sun approximately 932.000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.

Image: Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. Credit: NOAA/NASA.
DSCOVR will join ACE at L1 which is the place to be for solar wind observing spacecraft because the constant stream of particles from the sun which we know as the solar wind reaches L1 about 30 minutes (during storm conditions) to an hour (during quiet conditions) before reaching Earth. This gives scientist and enthousiast like you and me a heads up as to what kind of solar wind conditions are expected to arrive soon. 

Image: Solar wind graph provided by SpaceWeatherLive using data from ACE showing the arrival of a coronal mass ejection. 

DSCOVR also promises to deliver more reliable solar wind measurements than ACE. Strong solar radiation storms should no longer provide false solar wind data, something which ACE is unable to do right now. The video below from NOAA gives an impression what the DSCOVR mission aims to achieve:

Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)

Image: ACE at L1.

What will happen to ACE? ACE was launched in 1997 and is still in working order. The spacecraft has fuel to maintain it's orbit untill 2024, but it is operating well beyond it's expected life-time as the mission was planned to only last 5 years. DSCOVR is expected to reach L1 in 115 days after launch which means that NASA is expecting to hand over DSCOVR to NOAA around mid-summer. When the time is there for us to switch over from ACE data to DSCOVR data we will be sure to let you know!

Watch the launch live on NASA Television beginning at 3:30pm EST on 8 February, 2015 at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv

Sources: 12

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