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Back during the Clinton administration, Al Gore had the idea for a satellite that would be positioned in deep space, so that it could image the entire Earth. Apart from the inspiration aspect of seeing the planet live from space, the satellite would generate planetary science data on a very large scale.  NASA went forward with the project, dubbing the satellite "Triana", and began construction of the spacecraft.

The incoming Bush administration quietly scrubbed the project (boo, hiss!), and Triana was put in storage at the Scripps Institute in San Diego, to languish for a decade. The Obama administration was open to launching the spacecraft, but some of the science that would have been generated by Triana has been taken up by other projects, leaving Triana as a mission without a mission.

                                              the good news is  below

The Department of Defense, however, does have data requirements that could be met by a satellite in deep space (beyond the geosynchronous belt), and so a new program with the acronym of DISCOVR was started to outfit Triana with new instruments.

The big news is that a launch contract for DISCOVR has been announced:

SpaceX To Launch Two Military Satellites

Triana will go up on a Falcon 1.1, the new "medium lift" version of the SpaceX Falcon rocket, whereas DoD is also contracting for a second launch of the "Falcon Heavy" version of Falcon (there is also a "small" version of this rocket called "Falcon 1").  When SpaceX says "heavy", they aren't kidding - this has about half the lifting capability of the Saturn V which sent astronauts to the Moon, a Very Serious Rocket, big enough for SpaceX to send people beyond low earth orbit if they get a customer who wants to go, say, to the Moon (check your local internet news outlet tomorrow for more on this).

Apart from the big news of Triana finally getting a ride, this contract is the first for a company other than the United Launch Alliance monopoly to receive a contract from DoD for a satellite launch in the "EELV" class, ie "medium" or "heavy" lift. Since DoD is paying about a Dirksen a year in subsidies just to keep ULA in business, the loss of two satellites to SpaceX may be a harbinger of doom and gloom for ULA, and its owners, Boeing and Lockheed. If Congress wants to really cut spending, that billion a year for not launching any rockets is low hanging fruit.

Anyway, congratulations to Al Gore for this milestone in seeing his vision implemented in reality.

Originally posted to Explorer8939 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:43 PM PST.

Also republished by Astro Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope they charged the batteries first... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:59:34 PM PST

  •  Thank goodness Supreme Court is out of the loop. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Larsstephens, bear83, TLS66

    "God bless us, every one!" ~ T. Tim

    by jwinIL14 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:14:16 PM PST

  •  Gore invented the satellite? n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood, offgrid

    Romney is George W. Bush without brains.

    by thestructureguy on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:49:38 PM PST

  •  could you explain more to those of us (0+ / 0-)

    not in the know?

    Frankly reading your diary and the linked article, I am still confused.  This is not an area I know much about, so I need a basic explanation.

    How are two military satellites connected with Triana?  Is Triana going to be converted to military use?  What use did Al Gore envision in the first place?  Is that use still going to be performed?  What good/value did Al Gore have in mind for his satellite?  Is he still connected with it?  What military uses are these satellites having?

    Not clear.  thanks.

    It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. ~~Joseph Stalin

    by SeaTurtle on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:13:01 PM PST

    •  Let me quote Wikipedia ..... (5+ / 0-)
      Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) (formerly known as Triana, unofficially known as GoreSat) is a NASA satellite proposed in 1998 by then-Vice President Al Gore for the purpose of Earth observation. It is intended to be positioned at the Earth's L1 Lagrangian point, at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers. At this location it will have a continuous view of the sunlit side of the Earth.

      The satellite's original purpose was to provide a near-continuous view of the entire Earth and make that live image available via the Internet. 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.

      In addition to an imaging camera, a radiometer would take the first direct measurements of how much sunlight is reflected and emitted from the whole Earth (albedo). This data could constitute a barometer for the process of global warming. The scientific goals expanded to measure the amount of solar energy reaching Earth, cloud patterns, weather systems, monitor the health of Earth's vegetation, and track the amount of UV light reaching the surface through the ozone layer.

      "The Obama Administration has been an unmitigated disaster" - Osama Bin Laden

      by Explorer8939 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:28:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good old Wikipedia... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hooper, SeaTurtle, jwinIL14

        I read about this at the time Gore was proposing this project and NASA was building it. Gore knew that there is a sort of "sweet spot" between the gravitational pulls of the sun and the earth that would allow this satellite to sit without falling into the pull of either body. And, yes, the goal of it was to observe that "non-existent" condition called "global warming".  So thanks to the non-science "thinking" of the neanderthals that followed Bush into power, we lost a lot of precious time in monitoring the enevitable realities of global weather/sea level changes.

      •  thanks for that explanation (0+ / 0-)

        so, has Triana been converted to military use?  Will it still be able to perform the above functions?

        It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. ~~Joseph Stalin

        by SeaTurtle on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 06:43:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I like your Dirksen unit of subsidy. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill Roberts

    I grew up in Illinois. I liked Ev.

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~ Ben Franklin

    by jim in IA on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:45:22 AM PST

  •  I hope it has better cameras than the crappy (0+ / 0-)

    views we've gotten from departing space probes in the past few decades - and I mean that in a qualitative sense, since so-called "HD" cameras seem to actually make the pictures look pixelated and phony.  Nothing has yet even approached the awesomeness of the Apollo photographs.  Why the hell haven't we gotten any pictures like this in decades - it's not like we don't have satellites out there:

    Apollo 12 Earth Orbit 2 with Falling Adapter

    The best they've come up with is to stitch together a bunch of pics from LEO sats, and it ends up looking ridiculous and computer-generated.

    In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

    by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:28:59 AM PST

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