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Q&A on NOAA's DSCOVR Mission
February 4, 2015

[image-69]NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Feb. 8 at 6:10 p.m. EDT and is a joint mission with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Recently, the following representatives from each partner agency provided answers to questions: Doug Whiteley, deputy director, Office of Systems Development, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service; Douglas Biesecker, DSCOVR program scientist, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center; and Richard Eckman, NASA DSCOVR program scientist.

From its orbit one million miles away from Earth near the Earth-Sun line, the DSCOVR spacecraft will provide critical data necessary for NOAA space weather forecasters to issue timely and accurate warnings of solar storms that have the potential to disrupt major public infrastructure systems such as power grids, telecommunications, aviation and GPS.

In addition to the space weather instruments, DSCOVR will carry two NASA Earth-observing instruments that gather ozone, aerosol, cloud, and vegetation measurements (EPIC) and changes in the Earth's radiation budget (NISTAR).

Q: Is this an operational or research satellite?   

A: DSCOVR's primary mission is space weather. It is an operational mission for NOAA while the NASA instruments have more of a science role. The NASA instruments are research oriented.

Q: How long is the DSCOVR mission? 

A:  It is planned for a 2-year mission with fuel that can last 5 years.

Q:  What frequency of space weather events require responses?

A: DSCOVR will be looking for high-speed solar winds that can cause problems and damages to satellites. Space weather from CMEs cause most damage. Storms are fairly common, but warnings help reduce impacts.

Q: Can you give an example of widely-felt CME impact?

A: One CME event affected an aviation system and changed way aircraft approaches are done. Another system was knocked off line for months. The Carrington event (1859) caused massive damage to the telegraph system of the day, and would be devastating today to modern computer systems and the power grid without early warning.

[image-96]Q: Would the 1989 Quebec Power Outage be an example of a solar wind caused issues?

A: Yes. 2003 is another example - the "Halloween storms."  The spacecraft will be able to provide warnings for these. For more information about the Halloween storms, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/halloween_storms.html

Q: How will the Space Weather Prediction Center use DSCOVR data in operational forecasting? DSCOVR data will go through same path as ACE satellite data. NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) observes particles of solar, interplanetary, interstellar, and galactic origins, spanning the energy range from solar wind ions to galactic cosmic ray nuclei.

Q: What is the difference between ACE and DSCOVR?

A: ACE was a 9-instrument solar research satellite launched in August 1997, while DSCOVR is a 3-instrument solar operational satellite (and a 6 instrument research satellite. There are 2 Earth science instruments, and minor Pulse Height Analyzer instrument to study effect of space weather and cosmic rays on electronics.). Both spacecraft transmit solar wind particle and magnetic field data in real time to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. As an operational spacecraft, the DSCOVR instrumentation is more robust against outages caused by solar storms. Less significantly, DSCOVR provides faster cadence, once every 10 seconds data as opposed to ACE’s once every 1 minute.

Q: What are the plans for ACE?

A: ACE will go into a backup status for NOAA. As a NASA science mission, it will go through regular senior reviews that prioritize extended-phase NASA missions. ACE is still working but has exceeded its expected lifetime.

Q: When does DSCOVR become operational after launch?

A: It takes 115 days to reach orbit in L-1 or Lagrange 1 point. NASA will likely hand over DSCOVR to NOAA in mid-summer timeframe.

Q: How do people get the space weather info?

A: NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center doesn't charge for data. People can access the data at www.spaceweather.gov. The website has links to all products, and people can choose what they want.

Q: Have modifications been made to EPIC to enhance its Earth science measurements?

A: Original EPIC instrument concept is similar to current configuration. Improvements were made in all narrow-length wavelength bands to reduce stray light and to add new cloud height measurements. Ozone, aerosols, cloud amount, and vegetation were all in original design. Wavelength changes were made based on other earth-observing satellites over the last 15 years. Earth science data will be obtained about every 2 hours and downloaded to earth whenever the large Wallops Island antenna is in view.

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, and process data at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado, for distribution to users within the United States and around the world. The data will be archived at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center also in Boulder. The U.S. Air Force is providing the launch vehicle for the DSCOVR mission and the responsibility for all launch vehicle associated mission assurance.

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. DSCOVR will also host 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.

Q: Do you have ballpark figure for cost of satellite, storage, design, build?

The total cost of the mission that includes launch is $340 million, and a contribution from all partners.

For more information about DSCOVR, visit:  http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/DSCOVR/

Rob Gutro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory.
Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory.
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Workers remove the plastic cover from NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft
Workers remove the plastic cover from NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, in the high bay of Building 1 at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center.
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NASA Kennedy Space Center
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Page Last Updated: February 4th, 2015
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner