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SpaceX Launch of "GoreSat" Planned For Today, Along With Another Landing Attempt 75

The New York Times reports that SpaceX will again attempt to recover a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, after the recent unsuccessful try; the company believes the lessons from the earlier launch have been learned, and today's launch will be loaded with more hydraulic fluid. This evening, the rocket is to loft the satellite nicknamed "GoreSat," after Al Gore, who envisioned it as a sort of permanent eye in space beaing back pictures of Earth from afar. The purpose of the satellite has evolved, though: Writes the Times: The observatory, abbreviated as Dscovr and pronounced “discover,” is to serve as a sentinel for solar storms: bursts of high-energy particles originating from the sun. The particles from a gargantuan solar storm could induce electrical currents that might overwhelm the world’s power grids, possibly causing continent-wide blackouts. Even a 15-minute warning could let power companies take actions to limit damage.
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SpaceX Launch of "GoreSat" Planned For Today, Along With Another Landing Attempt

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  • Since it's not a question of if, so much as when one of these solar storms will damage Earth's electrical grid.
    • Ha ha. QOD is "Have you backed up the system lately?".

      Fine words to live by.

      And, of all the insufferable pricks we have running around, they have to name it after Al Gore? Please.....

      • Re:Nice! (Score:5, Informative)

        by confused one ( 671304 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @12:30PM (#49010843)
        It was nicknamed Goresat by it's detractors for two reasons. One of the primary payloads is designed to monitor albedo, which is there to support global climate research. A secondary payload is a camera, supposedly requested by Gore. The camera was to provide high definition, continuous real-time imagery of the entire Earth -- a full sunlit globe. The Wikipedia description matches my memory of the debate: " Gore hoped not only to advance science with these images, but also to raise awareness of the Earth itself, updating the influential The Blue Marble photograph taken by Apollo 17"
        • whats the diff between goresat and regular satellite imagery???

          • Re:Nice! (Score:5, Funny)

            by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @12:40PM (#49010909)

            This one's orbit is high enough to encompass Gore's monumental ego.

          • Re:Nice! (Score:4, Informative)

            by confused one ( 671304 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @12:57PM (#49010997)
            The imagery was supposed to be live streamed to the internet, for one thing. Most of the climate or weather satellites are in Earth orbit, between 350 and 23,000 miles up. This will be all the way out at L1. Being at L1, there will always be a sunlit Earth image and you'll always see the a full hemisphere. Don't know that it will actually end up implemented like that, but that was the intent.
            • The imagery was supposed to be live streamed to the internet, for one thing.

              I'm still a little torn on this issue. On one hand, I'm not sure that I am comfortable with Al Gore gazing at my butt while I am lounging outside naked in my backyard.

              On the other hand, it seems that Al Gore's satellite would give me the opportunity to moon entire planet . . . !

            • The imagery was supposed to be live streamed to the internet, for one thing.

              Considering how far out it is, the entire hemisphere facing the sun should be able to receive its signal. Can the hams among us tell us if it's feasible for an individual to receive and decode the signal directly? Without falling afoul of dish size restrictions?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            It's in orbit around the sun, not the earth. It's at the Lagrange point (L1) between the sun and the earth so that it always sees the illuminated hemisphere.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The scientists in the project didnt like the camera much. Heavy thing, lots of telemetry that could be used elsewhere, all for small scientific benefit. Scientists usually dont care about PR. Also there are already two functioning monitors around L1 (WIND and ACE) so the scientific community felt that there its kind of a waste of resources. Keep in mind that there is a kind of quota for space missions so the worry was that they wont get proper solar win mission for 20 years (and it seems they wont). On the

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      so what you're going to do?
      many questions are when.. on the scale of 1000 year.

      though, why is nobody snickering at it being al gores idea to have a satellite beaming back pictures of the earth? I mean come on, when was the first camera satellite launched?

    • but wouldn't a solar storm scramble a hard drive NAS as well? and wouldn't it scramble a standalone harddrive even if it werent plugged in, like an MRI machine?

      • A solar storm causes problems by producing shifts in Earth's magnetic field. It's many orders of magnitude away from being anything like a MRI, and wouldn't scramble hard drives directly, it would disrupt power grids and copper communication lines. The only impact on hard drives or other electronic devices on Earth would be from power surges, while satellites would have increased ionizing radiation to deal with.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      The biggest clincher is that the Earth's electrical grid doesn't even have to be susceptible to be damaged by such storms. The damage is due to high-intensity, slowly-changing magnetic fields that induce what amounts to DC current (when compared to the brisk 50/60Hz). Such low-frequency currents happily saturate the transformer cores and destroy the infrastructure. The solution is rather simple, and would have costed very little to implement: AC coupling of all conductors over a certain length in transmissi

  • Live stream link (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @12:15PM (#49010765)
    From the LiveStream Link below...

    The Falcon 9 is made up of two parts: a 138-foot-tall first stage, which burns for the first few minutes of flight, lifting the craft up to an altitude of about 50 miles before separating and falling back to Earth, and a smaller, 49-foot-tall second stage, which burns for another five minutes or so, carrying the spacecraft into orbit before disconnecting and falling back down to earth as well.

    Normally, both of these stages — as well as the stages that make up other rockets in general — break up into pieces as they plummet downward, eventually sinking in the ocean and becoming unusable. But on Sunday, as the first stage falls back to earth, SpaceX will fire its engines in order to stabilize and guide it in for a controlled landing.

    The plan is to land it on an autonomous uncrewed barge, which is being stationed about 370 miles east of Cape Canaveral. As the rocket descends, steerable fins affixed to its outside will help guide it and slow it down. As it nears the barge, a set of legs will unfold from the bottom of the rocket, and if all goes to plan, it'll slow down to a speed of about 4.5 miles per hour before gently landing on them, fully upright.

    To solve the problem from the last attempt, the rocket will be carrying more hydraulic fluid. []

    • I wonder how long it will take for the magnitude of that achievement to be noticed, let alone to sink in with T.C. Mits. [] I have a feeling that it will get mentioned, and Bill Nye will share a few words on CNN, but that it won't get much play in the mainstream press. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

      Keeping fingers crossed... ;-)

      • I wonder how long it will take for the magnitude of that achievement to be noticed, let alone to sink in with T.C. Mits. [] I have a feeling that it will get mentioned, and Bill Nye will share a few words on CNN, but that it won't get much play in the mainstream press. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

        Keeping fingers crossed... ;-)

        It probably won't, but the fruits of it will be noticed. I think the general public will like ubiquitous cell and data coverage, even in remote areas, or centimeter-accurate positioning. All of this stuff will be worldwide by nature.

        Those are just two things that would be possible if it was cheap to launch and maintain thousands of satellites.

    • For what it's worth, this mission isn't going into Earth orbit; it's leaving orbit (escape trajectory). It will eventually park in a sun synchronous halo orbit at the L1 Lagrange point.
    • If you don't want to support Vox in any way, try a better livestream link []

    • Sort of a nitpick, but the altitude that any given stage lofts the satellite to is really not the important point. The velocity is much more critical. To stay in Earth's orbit, you need to be going really fast. To *leave* Earth's orbit and enter the Sun's orbit, as this satellite is aiming to do, you need to be going even faster. I'm not actually sure what the flight path for something aiming toward the L1 point looks like, but it's definitely not your typical low Earth orbit or even geostationary orbit tra

  • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @12:46PM (#49010949)

    i was confused about how the satellite could continuously watch the earth and the sun at the same time. Turns out it's positioned at the L1 lagrange point, which is in between sun and earth at about 170,000 km from earth (geostationary is 22k, for comparison). At this point, the pull from the earth will cancel out the pull from the sun, and the satellite will effectively stay positioned exactly between the earth and sun as the earth rotates around. look down from the satellite, you see the fully lit earth, and look up, and you see the sun. pretty cool, huh? wikipedia ftw [].

    speaking of cool, did anybody else see that solar movie Sunshine? that was an awesomely gorgeous movie. its cool if you went to a theater and looked up at the audience in some of those scenes where the entire screen was bright white.

    • Re:lagrange point (Score:5, Informative)

      by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @01:28PM (#49011175) Homepage

      At this point, the pull from the earth will cancel out the pull from the sun, and the satellite will effectively stay positioned exactly between the earth and sun as the earth rotates around.

      Not quite. From NASA []:

      The Lagrange Points are positions where the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them.

      Lagrangian Point 1 (L1) is located on the line between the Earth and the Sun. At L1, the opposing gravitational force from the Earth partially cancels the force from the Sun, reducing the overall centripetal force. In orbital mechanics, the periods of Sun orbiting objects increase with increasing radius, due to the decreasing gravitational force (lower force, lower acceleration, lower speed, increasing circumference). Because the satellite at L1 feels a weaker centripital force than it would normally experience at that solar orbital radius, it can orbit the Sun at a period of 365.25 days, in spite of being closer to the Sun than the Earth. Thus it maintains its relative position between the Sun and the Earth.

    • I think you may have used the distance for the Earth-Moon L1? The Earth-Sun L1 is not only beyond Geostationary, it's beyond Luna's orbit too... by a factor of approximately four. According to Wikipedia [], the satellite will be at 1.5 million KM from Earth.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @02:19PM (#49011383)

    So if you put a big enough satellite at L1, it will shade the planet andreduce global warming.

    You'd need to make it out of graphene so it would be light enough.

    If you made it like a venetian blind you couldcontrol the amount of sunlight the earth recieves.
    Close the blinds when its daytime in asia, open them again when its daytime in the americas.
    You could rule the world [evil laugh]

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      It would have to be half the size of the moon, or so.

      "That's not a moon! That's a venetian blind!"

      • by amaurea ( 2900163 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @04:09PM (#49011961) Homepage

        The Earth-Sun L1 point is 1.5 Gm from the Earth, pretty much exactly 1% of the distance from the earth to the sun. So to fully cover the sun (as seen from one spot on Earth), the blind would have to be 1% of the Radius of the sun. That's basically the radius of the Earth, or 4 times the radius of the Moon. To cover the sun as seen from anywhere on Earth, you would need a slightly bigger radius due to perspective.

        But one doesn't need to cover the whole sun (unless one wants to play the grandparent's nefarious games with Asia). A 1% reduction in insolation would already help a lot. So that gives us about 1% of the area of the earth, or 1.5e12 m^2. With graphene's density, that works out to be 1,120,000 kg for a single layer. For comparison, the international space station's mass is 450,000 kg, so that mass is within the realm of the possible to launch, even to the much greater distance of L1.

        But a single layer of graphene is transparent, which isn't a good quality to have for blocking the sun. So much more than 1 layer would be needed. That would very quickly bring the mass into unrealistically high levels, corresponding to hundreds or thousands of space stations. And that still ignores the mass of the supports needed to keep the graphene extended and in the right shape, which would probably weigh more than the graphene itself.

        Another problem inherent to such a large surface area is that the solar wind will exert a pretty large force on it. The solar wind has a pressure of about 4nPa, which multiplied with the huge surface area gives a force of 6 kN towards the Earth. So a rockets would have to be mounted on it to keep it in orbit. Or actually, one can compensate for this force by moving solar sail blind closer to the sun, where it would be able to orbit with the same angular velocity as the Earth without any correcing rockets on average. However, the solar wind isn't constant, so it would still need corrective rockets. And it would be in the way for all the current sun-observing satellites at L1. There would also be a tendency for the blind to rotate to show its thin direction to the solar wind, which would need to be counteracted.

        This could probably be done, but I it would probably be by far the largest project ever attempted, and much more expensive than other, simpler ways of dealing with global warming, such as polluting less. It's a fun idea, though.

        • As I recall the best choice for a low-mass sunshield is a grid of fine conductive wires about 100nm or so apart in both directions. This forms a Faraday cage at optical frequencies. There's a complicated tradeoff between what you make the wires out of, how much is reflected and how much absorbed and how fine you can make the wires without them melting. I'm not sure what the winner is for this application, but the area density of such a material can be less than that of a carbon monolayer, since it's mostly

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hello, Europe chimes in (not the 2001 Space odyssey one):

    What's this hate towards Al Gore? He ran the USA for 8 years in the background, while Bill C. was busy inserting his saxophone into the various body cavities of sexy females. Those 8 years were a period of spectacular economic and technological development for the USA, a true golden age. All other countries of the world watched in amazement, as Russia and co. struggled for survival on the ruins of recently collapsed USSR, while America skyrocketed and

    • I think people will remember al-Gore even in the distant future, not unlike Benjamin Franklin or even Charlemagne. He will have statues while the word Bush will mean nothing, but a piece of vegetation too small to be called a tree.

      No, I think they will both continue to be laughed out for quite a long time

    • 'Al' means 'The' in Arabic.

  • Couldn't they name the satellite after a scientist that made actual contributions to science?
    • If you actually read the WP blurb, you'd know that the satellite's mission was suggested by Gore himself. I can't promise he was the first one to come up with the idea, or that he developed it independently, but he was the one who made the proposal to NASA.

      Interestingly, the satellite was built over a decade ago; it was originally supposed to launch in 2003. They basically had to un-mothball and recondition it for this mission.

    • The name was given by Republicans trying to scuttle the project because Gore supported it. It's hardly unusual for US conservatives to engage in name-calling.

  • I hope they can land the Falcon 9 this time. SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann says [] this time the Falcon 9 will come in twice as fast as the January 10 attempt, and it will land farther offshore.

  • Just yesterday I looked at the SpaceX website's news page specifically to find out when the next rocket recovery attempt would be, and it said nothing about this. I just happened to check /. in time to tune in to Nasa TV 5 minutes before launch time. (Incidentally, they've scrubbed the launch for today.)

    • Air force tracking radar went down. This is why they scrubbed.

    • Also: both this launch and the previous one (space station resupply mission) had an "instantaneous launch window", meaning that any delay at all means they scrub for the day. Why is that? What is so magical about their launch time that they can't accept a one minute delay? And how much does it cost to scrub a launch for a day?

      • For the space station, I'm not 100% certain why they can't delay the launch until when the station is at the same position relative to the launch site originally (approximately every 90 minutes) but it could involve things like risk of space debris in the flight path or needing the airspace clear for the initial ascent and only having it cleared for a brief time on launch day. Or it could be something else. As for why each launch window is so narrow, though, that has to do with the way a rocket launches; th

  • Had tracking station radar issues, so launch scrubbed for today. Attempt again tomorrow.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"