New solar 'climate' explorer spacecraft to be launched

Video follows. DSCOVR-Logo_NOAA_NASA_USAF

NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), scheduled to launch in five weeks, will give forecasters more reliable measurements of solar wind speed, improving their ability to monitor harmful solar activity, and replace an aging research satellite currently used to warn of impacts to Earth.

“Thanks to DSCOVR, the United States will have the uninterrupted ability to monitor space weather conditions, but in much greater detail,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “Those conditions can quickly turn dangerous and pose serious threats to Earth space and ground infrastructure.”

DSCOVR’s data will be used by forecasters at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), part of NOAA’s National Weather Service, for timely and accurate warnings of solar storms that have the potential to disrupt nearly every major public infrastructure system, including satellites, GPS, aviation and the electric power industry.

“Like weather prediction on Earth, space weather prediction begins with reliable observations,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., assistant administrator atNOAA’s National Weather Service. “DSCOVR will provide the observations necessary to help us deliver targeted, critical forecasts to industries affected by space weather so they can take the necessary steps to protect infrastructure and be more resilient.”

The DSCOVR spacecraft is the nation’s first operational spacecraft in deep space, orbiting approximately one million miles from Earth. It will replace the 17-year old NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) research satellite as the nation’s primary warning system for geomagnetic storming headed towards Earth. ACE will continue its important role in space weather research. Data from DSCOVR and a new forecast model coming online in fall 2015 will enable forecasters to predict regional geomagnetic storming.

In addition to space weather technology, DSCOVR will carry two NASA Earth-observing instruments that gather a range of measurements from ozone and aerosol amounts, to changes in Earth’s radiation.

“NASA’s Joint Agency Satellite Division is proud to have managed the refurbishment of the first operational space weather spacecraft in partnership with NOAA and the Goddard Space Flight Center,” said Steve Clarke, director of the division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. “The team has worked hard over the past three years to prepare the spacecraft and the instruments to enable timely space weather forecasting by NOAA and provide important Earth-observing data to NASA.”

The launch is scheduled for 6:49 p.m. EST on Jan. 23, 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It will take approximately 110 days for DSCOVR to reach the L1 (Lagrange point) orbit, between the Earth and Sun. From this position, DSCOVR is able to monitor and send information to NOAA forecasters on the surge of particles and magnetic field from the sun about an hour before it reaches Earth.

The DSCOVR mission is a partnership between NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Air Force. NOAA will operate DSCOVR from its NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland, process data at the SWPC for distribution to users within the United States and around the world. The data will be archived at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA received funding from NOAA to refurbish the DSCOVR spacecraft and its solar wind instruments, develop the ground segment and manage launch and activation of the satellite. The Air Force funds and oversees the launch services for DSCOVR. It also hosts NASA-funded secondary sensors for Earth and space science observations. The Earth science data will be processed at NASA’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center and archived and distributed by NASA’s Atmospheric Science Data Center.

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45 thoughts on “New solar 'climate' explorer spacecraft to be launched

  1. So who cares about the climate in deep space. We aren’t ever going to live in deep space (relative to old sol).

    • Deep space is a loosely used term. This satellite will form a very useful forward observer of the solar wind and CME particles just before they reach the Earth (about 25-45 minutes prior to Earth arrival in many cases).

    • Depends on what you mean by deep space. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter would be a great place to build deep space habitats. There is a LOT of building material including nickel iron floating in nice size lumps as well as the water , carbon and phosphorus that would be needed for hydroponic farms.

  2. “Like weather prediction on Earth, space weather prediction begins with reliable observations,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., assistant administrator atNOAA’s National Weather Service.
    But unlike climate prediction, which requires no reliable observations, only complex, sophisticated models churning out meaningless forecasts.

  3. Should we be concerned that the folks at NASA seem to be willing to ignore the distinction between weather and climate for the sake of getting their cute acronym to work?
    Nah…

      • Well I just got back from lunch in the NASA Ames cafeteria, on Moffet Field, and it seems from the café ads that “diversity and inclusion” is the big NASA Ames project these days.
        They seem to have finished with their “inventory” project that has been going on for months, so it seems that they did have the correct number of MIG-25 Foxbats in stock, because they haven’t put out the word on any of them missing.
        So NASA is all primed for whatever the genders and ethnicities are, of any space aliens they might run into in their researches.

  4. Maybe the climatologists will find out that science is not settled and that C02 is not the driver of temperature but the sun itself ?

  5. Applying the term “climate” to solar monitoring from deep space is absurdly inappropriate and transparently opportunistic. “Team, nice name and all, but we really need to slip the ‘C’ word in there.”

    • Today, to qualify as a “climate forecaster” you need to meet a stringent standard – predict climate 100 years hence with 0% certainty.

  6. The DSCOVR spacecraft is the nation’s first operational spacecraft in deep space, orbiting approximately one million miles from Earth—–
    Really? Or perhaps “operational” is the key word?

    • Naomi Klein: “We need a new definition of realism”.
      I can certainly see why. Everything she says is based on fantasy and lies.

  7. This refurbished satellite might offer significant comparison data for those of us who monitor the ozone layer, UV-B, total water vapor and aerosol optical thickness at times other than solar noon when traditional earth resource satellites pass overhead. When the sun is obscured by clouds at solar noon, I make my measurements during afternoon, when there is little or no satellite data for comparison (except GOES total water vapor). Over time these comparisons provide a useful way to check the long-term stability of my instruments. This works both ways, for over the years I’ve found errors or unannounced drifts in optical depth retrievals from a GOES AVHRR satellite instrument and from three ozone satellites. The first of these findings was an ozone error of several percent (F. M. Mims III, Satellite Monitoring Error, Nature, 361, 505, 1993).
    The new satellite (in storage since around 1998) is by no means perfect. For example, the shortest UV wavelength that this satellite will measure is 317 nm. This likely means its ozone retrievals will not provide the accuracy of a ground-based instrument (mine use 300 nm, 305 nm and 310 nm). The comparison opportunity is but one minor advantage of this satellite. Among the most significant opportunities should be tracking the smoke that is deposited on polar ice and glaciers, where it reduces their albedo and probably causes much more melting than the putative effects of greenhouse gases. This satellite will also provide much better coverage of the enormous dust storms in East Asia and North Africa that cross the Pacific and Atlantic while significantly blocking sunlight. Some of this dust also falls on glaciers and arctic ice. Both dust and black carbon (from smoke) form dark layers that are often visible in photographs of glaciers. I once found black carbon soot in snow near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, possibly associated with smoke from major fires in Vietnam that I photographed drifting over nearby Las Cruces. This finding and photos were published in “The Citizen Scientist.”

    • Forrest, I’m a bit confused by your posting. The DSCOVR spacecraft will be deployed far from Earth to monitor solar wind, not terrestrial ozone. Have you perhaps posted this message in the wrong forum?
      Otherwise, it is not often that we are honored to share our thoughts with someone as notable as yourself (hopefully not a troll posing as Forrest M. Mims III.

      • Yes, it’s me. And yes, DSCOVR will also measure total ozone and aerosols. The resolution will be on the order of 25 km, not nearly as good as the current generation of earth resource satellites. But the coverage is the sunlit day, and this has important potential.

    • Forrest,
      I presume you are referring to the Earth-facing EPIC instrument on the DSCOVR platform formerly known as ‘Triana’. I have my doubts about the quality of the images of earth when it is nearly 1,000,000 miles away. It certainly won’t be geostationary GOES quality (1km Vis, 4km IR).
      A few things about your write-up.
      1) the GOES platform does not have the AVHRR instrument. That is the NOAA Polar-orbiting platforms.
      2) GOES does not provide ‘total water vapor’ …except for maybe the Sounder instrument. The Imager’s water vapor channel is only sensitive to the mid & upper levels of the atmosphere & is nearly blind to low-level WV. GOES-R will fix that.
      3) DISCOVR will provide better coverage of dust off Africa/Asia? I would think the Meteosat MSG/GOES-E platforms provide better coverage due to their constant point-of-view. DSCOVR would only see Africa 6-8 hours out of 24. How is that better than a constant 24-hour view from current Geos?
      4) finding black soot in New Mexico from Vietnam is a 9000 mi reach (against prevailing easterly trade winds, btw) I find hard to believe, IMO. Unless you could to do some kind of exact vegetative DNA match to burning mass in Vietnam, hmmmmm…….
      Of course, time will tell concerning the earth-portion of the DSCOVR mission but I’m keeping my expectations low.
      Regards

      • 1-2) You are correct about GOES. The AOD error I found was with the AVHRR on either NOAA 11 or 12 during 1992-93. I disclosed details of this finding at the “Impact of Volcanism on Climate” Gordon Conference at New England College (July 25-30, 1993) and later worked with a NOAA staffer to confirm the error by comparing my 600 nm AOD data with that from AVHRR retrievals over the Gulf of Mexico closest to my site (AVHRR AOD retrievals are possible only over water). GOES does not provide water vapor down to the ground. NOAA ATOVS provides total water vapor down to 1000 mb. There can be major errors with some of the satellite water vapor retrievals, and I once gave a talk on this topic.
        3) METEOSAT provides a good view of North Africa, the source of Saharan dust. I am unaware of a METEOSAT that provides a good view of Asian dust that regularly crosses the Pacific. Other geostationary satellites might, especially since the eastern Pacific is considered as stable a site as the Indian Ocean.
        4) The smoke from Vietnam and Southeast Asia that I photographed over Las Cruces, NM, in March 2004 is clearly depicted in the NAAPS aerosol forecast model on the NRL site. Go to http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/aerosol/. Scroll down to March 2004 archives and select Globe. Animated gifs clearly show the movement of this smoke across the Pacific to the US. I’m surprised that few people know that smoke, dust and air pollution from Asia often crosses the Pacific on its way to the continental US. I’ve photographed and measured its optical depth during some of my annual 12-day calibration stays at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. I’ve also measured optical depth increases caused by Asian dust drifting across Texas. Returning to the March 2004 event that you questioned, major fires occurred in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, during that month. Besides the NRL forecast model, you can see satellite imagery of the widespread fires here: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=12693. Perhaps there is MODIS imagery of this smoke over the Pacific, but I’ve not checked.

  8. Well I agree, but there was some research that indicated temps on Mars rose. I can’t think other than that is due also from Solar activity.

  9. Hello Mr. Moderator, it appears that we are receiving spurious messages from other channels in the blogosphere. What’s going on?
    [Analyzing it. More when we know more. .mod]

  10. Actually the data from the current “ACE” satellite (soon to be joined by this new satellite) is used currently in the day to day operation of many Earth orbiting satellites. Modern satellites are designed with a reasonable amount of “computer smarts” on board. Part of that smarts is a “go to safe mode” command, when that is received (after a warning about a large incoming “space weather” event) many satellites are pre-programmed to shut down “non-essential” systems and point the “hardened” side of the satellite towards the incoming flare. Hydrazine fueled thruster rockets, or reaction wheels (kind of like a gyroscope in reverse) can “steer” the satellite in a short time frame (minutes) so that the “side” of the satellite that is most immune to radiation damage is facing the incoming space weather event. This is an attempt to prevent radiation damage to the satellite and of course interrupts the normal operations, but hopefully if the “bird” survives normal operations can resume; “we now return you to our normal programming”.
    “space climate”, ha ha ha, now we will have to start worrying if our CO2 emissions are changing the “climate” between here and the SUN ????
    Interestingly the new James Webb Space Telescope (a successor to the Hubble) will be operating at the L2 Lagrangian point, the twin sibling of the L1 point. Two locations in space where the gravity from the Earth and the Sun/Other Planets cancels out to zero and it is possible to “park” a satellite/telescope there without expending any energy to stay there (well, just the occasional “station keeping” tasks to “tack” back to the intended L1/L2 point),
    Yes, this will be a very useful instrument, but the “climate” part of the mission name is…. I’m having a hard time coming up with the correct term; “politically convenient” might fit the bill ?
    Cheers, KevinK

    • Yes, for a satellite with a projected life of 5 years, “climate” is certainly an inappropriate descriptive term. 5-year trends are nice to know, but they do not necessarily provide a climatology. (My ground-based data set for total ozone, total water vapor, UV-B, optical depth, etc. will soon reach 25 years, which is 5 years short of being what most meteorologists consider a climatology.)

      • Forrest Mims III’
        Thank you for commenting here with WUWT. There are a lot of ‘lurkers’ such as myself who value informed contributions and look forward to yours.
        The ‘climate’ is the most featured topic here but science is of great interest!
        I look forward to your future comments and a guest post should you be so inclined to offer.

    • Yes, but don’t forget the critical need to maintain very carefully maintained ground stations. The current rather dismal status of global climate models clearly shows they are trumped by real world observations. The problem deserving serious concern is that championed so effectively by Anthony Watts: What is the status of the ground data, including its processing, “adjustments”, calibration, longevity, site placement and encroachment by anthropogenic heat islands.

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