Al Gore’s Pet Satellite Lives Again in DSCOVR

The DSCOVR Satellite

The DSCOVR Satellite

Sometimes you just have to laugh at things our government does. I remember hearing about what was jokingly called “GoreSat” back in the day. The actual name of the satellite was Triana. Once our former Vice President was done inventing the internet (joke intended) he decided that we should use it to look at a continuous picture of the Earth in real time. His idea was to place a satellite on orbit so that the sun lit side of the Earth would constantly be in view, streaming that view over the internet for all to see. In 1998 the project was approved an construction began.

Either a great, or stupid idea depending on you perspective. As an engineer I was in the stupid camp. We had weather satellites, and many other sources to view images of the Earth, to spend tax dollars on a boondoggle like this was a little offensive. But none the less, amazingly it was funded and built.

Vice President Gore challenges NASA to build a new satellite to provide live images of Earth from outer space, 13 March 1998

This was way back in 2000, at which time President bush was elected and promptly ended the 100 million dollar pet project of the now former vice president. The problem was the satellite was built, ready to launch. It was placed in a container, in a state of hibernation until someone could figure out what to do with a perfectly good satellite with no real mission. Some if the offend scientists who built it had managed to stick a small payload on it which would have been of some real scientific use but none the less it was canceled.

In 2009 the need for a new satellite to monitor geomagnetic storms drove a possible reuse of GoreSat. ” There is a critical need for the geomagnetic storm information that the DSCOVR could provide as the current satellite that provides this information was built in 1997, and has long ago exceeded its design life..” This, for once, was a financially smart move by the government and a good way the re-purpose GoreSat.

Now a NOAA Earth observation mission the DSCOVR solar weather satellite scheduled to be launched by SpaceX in early 2015 on a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. It is intended to be positioned at the Sun-Earth  Lagrangian point (1.5 million kilometers from Earth). By the time it launches this “new” satellite will be 15 years old, but at least it is finally serving a purpose.