With technical issues resolved and clear skies, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida Wednesday to put a U.S. weather satellite into orbit to watch for potentially dangerous solar storms.
VIDEO: SpaceX Launches Satellite to Track Space Weather
SpaceX had hoped to the rocket's spent first-stage booster, which separates three minutes after liftoff, would land on a platform in the ocean, part of the company's continuing series of tests to develop reusable rockets.
Seas were too high for the landing platform to remain on station, but the rocket was able to brake its descent and softly touch down on the surface of the ocean before toppling over.
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"Rocket soft landed in the ocean within 10m of target & nicely vertical! High probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather," SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk posted on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the rocket's upper-stage continued to fly the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into an initial orbit that stretches as far as 852,000 miles from Earth. From there, DSCOVR will propel itself over the next 110 days into its operational orbit some 930,000 miles from Earth - about four times farther away than the moon - and circling the sun.
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The satellite is designed to provide about an hour's advance notice of potentially dangerous solar storms, which can damage satellites, disrupt GPS signals and black out radio communications on Earth.
DSCOVR also has two sensors that will face the sun-lit side of Earth for several science investigations, such as tracking volcanic plumes and monitoring floods and droughts. It also has a camera that will take pictures of Earth every two hours. The images will be posted on the Internet the following day.