February 24, 2015 – In the 12 days since it launched, NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite has reached the halfway mark to the L1 position. In 12 days, DSCOVR has traveled approximately 0.8M kilometers. However, just as a ball loses speed at the top of its arc, DSCOVR is losing speed.
As DSCOVR moves further away from the earth, the sun’s gravity comes into play and bends the trajectory. This results in curved trajectory versus a “straight-line” approach. It will take DSCOVR another 100 days to travel the remaining distance to L1. This will put the expected arrival time of DSCOVR at L1 around the beginning of June.
When it reaches its final destination, and after it completes a series of initialization checks, DSCOVR will be the nation’s first operational satellite in deep space, orbiting between Earth and the Sun at a point called the Lagrange point, or L1. It will take its place at L1 alongside NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) research satellite, replacing the 17-year old ACE as America’s primary warning system for solar magnetic storms headed towards Earth. Meanwhile, ACE will continue its important role in space weather research.
Data from DSCOVR, coupled with a new forecast model that is set to come online later this year, will enable NOAA forecasters to predict geomagnetic storm magnitude on a regional basis. Geomagnetic storms occur when plasma and magnetic fields streaming from the sun impact Earth’s magnetic field. Large magnetic eruptions from the sun have the potential to bring major disruptions to power grids, aviation, telecommunications, and GPS systems.
In addition to space weather-monitoring instruments, DSCOVR is carrying two NASA Earth-observing instruments that will gather a range of measurements from ozone and aerosol amounts, to changes in Earth’s radiation.