Spacecraft in space.

Artist'c concept of DSCOVR. Credit: NOAA

DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) is a space weather station that monitors changes in the solar wind, providing space weather alerts and forecasts for events like geomagnetic storms that could disrupt power grids, satellites, telecommunications, aviation and GPS.

The constant stream of particles from the Sun, the solar wind, reaches DSCOVR about an hour before getting to Earth, giving forecasters 15 to 60 minutes warning time.

  • DSCOVR orbits about a million miles from Earth in a unique location called Lagrange point 1, which basically allows it to hover between the Sun and our planet.

  • The spacecraft’s EPIC camera takes a new picture of Earth every two hours.

  • The EPIC camera has captured images of solar eclipses and images of the moon as it passed between DSCOVR and the Earth. It’s also photographed Earth moving between the spacecraft and the Moon.

Launch Date Feb. 11, 2015 | 23:03:02 UT
Launch Site Cape Canaveral / SLC-40
Destination Sun–Earth L1 Lagrange Point
Type Orbiter
Status Active
Nation United States
Alternate Names Triana
color, full-disc view of Earth from space with clouds and ocean
The Pacific Ocean as seen by the EPIC camera aboard the DSCOVR spacecraft on Dec. 31, 2018F. Credit: NASA/NOAA

Key Dates

Feb. 11, 2015 | 23:03:02 UT: Launch

June 8, 2015: Arrival at Sun–Earth L1 Point

In Depth

Objectives: Observe Earth from the Sun–Earth L1 Lagrange Point

Spacecraft Mass: 1,257 pounds (570 kilograms)

Mission Design and Management: NASA, NOAA, USAF

Scientific Instruments

  1. PlasMag plasma-magnetometer (magnetometer, Faraday cup, electrostatic analyzer)

  2. Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC)

  3. National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR)

The Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, gives NOAA real-time solar wind observations so that forecasters can provide early warnings about geomagnetic storms. It acts like a sensor buoy at sea that warns of an oncoming tsunami -- DSCOVR can warn forecasters 15 to 60 minutes before solar storms reach Earth.

DSCOVR is a joint mission between NASA, NOAA, and the USAF designed as a successor to NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE).

The project originally was called Triana, a mission conceived in 1998 by then-Vice President Al Gore. It was meant to be a NASA Earth science mission to provide an almost continuous view of Earth from space and to use a radiometer to take direct measurements of sunlight reflected and emitted from Earth.

The spacecraft originally was slated for launch on STS-107, the tragic mission of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, but Triana was canceled in 2001 and the satellite was put into storage.

Seven years later, in 2008, the Committee on Space Environmental Sensor Mitigation Options (CSESMO) determined the spacecraft would be “the optimal solution for meeting NOAA and USAF space weather requirements.” The satellite was removed from storage in November 2008 and recertified for launch with some modifications.

Diagram of DSCOVR orbit at L1
DSCOVR orbits one million miles from Earth. Positioned between the Sun and Earth. This location is called Lagrange point 1. (Illustration not to scale.) Credit: NOAA

DSCOVR was launched on Feb.11, 2015 and 100 days later it reached the Sun–Earth L1 point and began orbiting about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.

The satellite has a continuous view of the Sun and the sunlit side of Earth. It takes full Earth pictures about every 2 hours using the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) instrument. In October 2015, a website was launched that posts at least a dozen new color images every day from EPIC.

On Oct. 28, 2015, NASA officially handed over control of DSCOVR to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The spacecraft completed its first year in deep space on Feb. 11, 2016. Real-time data from DSCOVR were made available to the public beginning July 2016.

Additional Resources

Sources

Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.

Related News