Upper Level Winds Postpone DSCOVR Launch

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WASHINGTON — Strong upper level winds forced controllers to postpone the launch Feb. 10 of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a space and Earth sciences satellite, the second launch scrub in three days.

Launch officials halted the countdown 13 minutes before the scheduled 6:05 p.m. EST launch after data from weather balloons indicated that upper level winds were above the limits the launch vehicle could tolerate during its ascent to orbit. Weather conditions were otherwise acceptable, and controllers reported no technical issues with the launch vehicle or spacecraft.

“We have scrubbed for today due to uncooperative upper level winds and an inability to safely fly through them,” said NASA spokesman Mike Curie on a NASA TV broadcast of the launch. “Safety prevails.”

Earlier in the day, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk had warned of “extreme wind shear” in the skies above the Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch site that would pose a hazard to the Falcon 9.

NASA announced the next launch attempt will be Feb. 11 at 6:03 p.m. EST. Should that launch also be postponed, the agency said they would stand down until Feb. 20.

A prior launch attempt on Feb. 8 was scrubbed with less than two and a half minutes before liftoff because of a problem with a tracking radar run by the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX had also reported a problem with a telemetry transmitter on the Falcon 9 first stage. Officials postponed a possible Feb. 9 launch attempt early that day, citing poor weather.

The Falcon 9 is carrying the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft, a joint mission of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Air Force. The spacecraft will operate from the Earth-sun Lagrange point 1, about 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth in the direction of the sun. It will provide early warnings of solar storms, a mission similar to NASA’s existing Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft there.

SpaceX also plans to use the launch to attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage on a ship located about 600 kilometers downrange of the launch site. On the previous Falcon 9 launch Jan. 10, SpaceX attempted to land the stage on the ship, but the stage crashed when it ran out of hydraulic fluid used by four fins that help steer the stage.