CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Trouble with an Air Force tracking radar on Sunday scrubbed SpaceX's first attempt to launch a space weather and climate research satellite from Cape Canaveral, disappointing spectators, including former Vice President Al Gore, who proposed the satellite in the late '90s.
SpaceX will now try to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and the $340 million Deep Space Climate Observatory mission, or DSCOVR, at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday.
In a brief appearance with reporters at Kennedy Space Center before Sunday's launch attempt, Gore said he was excited to see the flight of the mission he first named Triana, which included two NASA instruments supporting climate research.
The mission ran into political opposition, lost its ride on a space shuttle and was forced into storage for a decade before being revived with a new name and space weather mission led by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gore said he still thought the science observations and images the spacecraft will transmit from one million miles away of the full, sunlit side of Earth -- his original inspiration for the mission -- could prove influential in raising environmental awareness.
The images "can add to our way of thinking about our relationship to the Earth, and of course the Earth's ecosystem, principally the climate balance, but other dimensions of it as well are now threatened as never before," he said.
Weather conditions were perfect for a launch on Sunday, but the radar issue forced the Air Force to report it was "no-go" about two-and-a-half minutes before the planned 6:10 p.m. liftoff.
With an instantaneous launch window, no more time was available to troubleshoot the problem, resulting in the scrub.
The radar was required to track the Falcon 9 rocket during its flight from the Cape, part of the 45th Space Wing's responsibility for public safety during launches from the Eastern Range.
"The radar was not going to be able to come back up online and be ready to support the flight in time," SpaceX's John Insprucker said during the company's Webcast. "So with that, we had to call a hold."
"Prob (probably) good though," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said later on Twitter.
Musk said SpaceX could now replace a balky video transmitter on the rocket's first stage, which was not necessary for the launch "but nice to have."
The DSCOVR spacecraft is bound for a neutral orbit between the Earth and the sun, a million miles away, where it will feel blasts of solar wind that can damage satellites, power grids and other infrastructure.
The data will allow NOAA to provide up to an hour's notice to operators if they should take steps to protect their systems.
NASA's two Earth-observing instruments also will take science measurements, including the amount of radiation reflected from Earth, which Gore said was key to better understanding global warming.
Those instruments, however, now are flying in a secondary role to NOAA's space weather mission, which will make DSCOVR the nation's first operational space weather satellite in deep space.