Recycled Satellite, Reusable Rocket

Launch set for Sunday from Florida’s Space Coast

Who says space launches are wasteful? A forgotten satellite left sitting on the ground for 14 years has been dusted off, upgraded and recycled for a planned liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8. And it will ride atop a rocket booster that its manufacturer hopes to recover and reuse again, potentially saving millions of dollars.

Unfortunately it will have to wait a little while longer as the launch was scrubbed Sunday due to tracking issues.

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The satellite was first conceived by Al Gore while vice president. Originally, it was to transmit a constant feed of Earth via the internet to study the effects of climate change.

Political opposition could not stop the satellite from being built, but it did derail its launch. Back then, some ridiculed it as a $250-million screen saver. Later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization took over development. Now known as the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), the new mission will send it a million miles into space to warn of approaching geomagnetic storms and other dangers. Such information could help protect electrical grids and other satellites.

DSCOVR will be carried aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, designed to be the world’s first reusable rocket. After sending DSCOVR on its way, SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage booster on an ocean barge. An earlier attempt in January nearly succeeded. If a means to reuse rockets is perfected, the cost savings could lead to an increase in the number and frequency of satellite launches. SpaceX now charges around $61 million per launch.

And though the satellite is no longer his baby, Al Gore came to Cape Canaveral to witness the launch in person, but not in any official capacity. Stay tuned for its future launch date.