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:
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.