SpaceX has good and bad news for you space lovers. The good news is that a Falcon 9 rocket has finally launched the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite or DSCOVR, which has been waiting for years in storage. Bad news is that the stormy weather forced the company to abandon its plans to land the rocket on a barge named "Just Read the Instructions" (after the space ships from Iain M. Banks' sci-fi novels) that's currently floating 370 miles off the coast of Florida. The company wanted to use this opportunity to make a second attempt at landing on a drone ship after its first one ended in flames -- launch was even scrapped twice due to less than ideal conditions. But in the end, everyone involved decided they couldn't wait any longer, forcing SpaceX to make a soft water landing instead.
This is the company's first deep space mission, and Falcon 9's first stage flew in from a much farther location than before, since its payload is headed to a place almost a million miles away, four times farther than the moon. SpaceX would have had a harder time navigating the rocket onto a sea port if the attempt went through, as it dealt with twice the force and four times the heat during re-entry. The company did load it with more hydraulic fluid this time, though, as its first attempt failed due to the rocket running out right before it landed. Elon Musk and company haven't announced when the rescheduled barge landing will happen yet, but the founder remains optimistic, saying on Twitter that there's "high probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather."
DSCOVR, by the way, is a joint project between the Air Force and NOAA. It was designed to monitor solar storms, so that we can study its effects on satellites, GPS and aviation. That satellite has been stuck in storage since around 1999 due to numerous issues, and it's only in 2013 that the Air Force set aside funds to exhume it from its grave.
[Image credit: SpaceX/Twitter]
Rocket soft landed in the ocean within 10m of target & nicely vertical! High probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather.- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2015