Al Gore inspired, Elon Musk’s propelled, climate satellite, ‘DSCOVR’, launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, this Wednesday. The spacecraft, which otherwise is officially known as ‘Deep Space Climate Observatory,’ is a joint initiative between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This space mission was first conceptualized almost two and a half decades ago by the then U.S. Vice President Al Gore, whose climate sensitivity made him bring to the fore an environmental urgency as a logical reason behind this type of a satellite. Although, originally it was launched as Triana in memory of Rodrigo de Triana, who was the first member to join Columbus’ crew on his ambitious mission to discover India; the project gathered dust for more than 2 decades before it was given a fresh breath of life by this latest collaboration.
The purpose behind the launch of this mission is to keep a tab on the climate change data and continuously obtain images of Earth. The $340 million mission will replace an earlier satellite that was placed in orbit about 17 years ago. If all goes well, then this climate satellite could very well be one of the first of the many climate sentinels that would be orbiting the Earth in the near future.
This ‘climate’ data monitoring satellite also becomes crucial in a network of remote sensing satellites because the deep-space orbit of this satellite puts it in a position where incoming solar flares can be detected. Timely detection of solar flares ensures that adequate safeguard mechanisms are quickly deployed in order to protect radio, GPS, and communication systems from being disrupted due to sudden and erratic solar flares.
DSCOVR will take a total of 110 days before it finds its spot in the orbit designated for the climate satellite. This deep space positioning, which is almost 1 million miles (or 6 million km) inward from Earth, will enable an early warning system as Earth stations can receive signals of any solar threats, a full hour before such flares actually manage to reach Earth.
DSCOVR’s mandate goes beyond mere solar flare detection and it has been embedded with two sensors that will monitor the Earth for any volcanic plumes that indicate any impending volcanic activity. It will also be put to use in measuring subtle ozone changes or shifts and to also monitor for any natural disaster including any drought, flood or fire situations.