A satellite that was the brainchild of former Vice President Al Gore and once-panned by Republicans was readied Saturday for a Sunday liftoff. “GoreSat,” the 1,250-pound satellite officially named the Deep Space Climate Observatory, was set to lift off Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:10 p.m. Sunday.
The New York Times reported Gore postponed the project after the merit of the plan was questioned by congressional Republicans who called the satellite a waste of resources. “It’s been a long wait,” said Gore, who has been championing the project for 17 years. The satellite will ride atop a Falcon 9 rocket built by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. Last month, the Falcon 9 booster tests failed. The rocket could not remain upright as it descended and exploded. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said changes have been made to the rocket to ensure Sunday’s Falcon 9 has a smooth flight.
The satellite, which is also referred to as Dscovr is being launched to observe solar storms. According to Douglas A. Biesecker, a solar physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, and a Dscovr program scientist, the satellite will be able to track particles from solar storms that could potentially affect Earth’s power grids through electrical currents. “What it’s doing is ensuring we have that measurement,” Biesecker said, adding that such electrical currents could potentially cause continentwide blackouts.
When Gore began his project, he didn’t realize how integral the satellite would be for solar storm tracking. He aimed to take pictures of Earth that would show the planet fully illuminated, unlike pictures taken by Apollo astronauts where the Earth is partly in shadow, and could be used for educational purposes.
“It’s been 43 year since anyone has been far enough out into space to take such a photograph,” he said. “That’s when I began thinking about how we could get others that would be equally inspiring.”