Stuck in Safe Mode, DSCOVR Earth-Watching Satellite May Finally Get Fixed: Report

DSCOVR had a prime view of a total solar eclipse that crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2016.
DSCOVR had a prime view of a total solar eclipse that crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2016. (Image credit: NASA image courtesy of the DSCOVR EPIC team)

An Earth-observing satellite called DSCOVR has been stuck in safe mode for three months, and its operators finally have a plan to reboot it — but not for another few months.

DSCOVR, which is short for the Deep Space Climate Observatory, fell silent on June 27 because of a glitch in its position-maintenance system that prompted mission managers to put the spacecraft into a "safehold." The spacecraft was launched by NASA and is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA, NASA and an unnamed company have figured out a potential fix that looks promising, but they won't implement it until early next year, according to a report by SpaceNews. That fix targets the spacecraft's software, but the agencies have not provided any additional information on the issue or why the fix is proceeding so slowly.

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DSCOVR is perched in a "parking spot" orbit at a Lagrange point between Earth and sun that furnishes the satellite a steady view of our home planet. That gives DSCOVR's most famous instrument, a color camera, an incredible view of the entire sunlit disk of Earth.

But DSCOVR's primary mission is to monitor space weather, the atmospheric dynamics caused by the solar wind streaming off the sun. Scientists want to better understand space weather because it can interfere with communications and navigation satellites. Strong enough events can even disrupt the power grid on the surface of Earth.

The spacecraft launched in February 2015 with a planned mission lifetime of five years. According to SpaceNews, DSCOVR has slipped into safeholds on previous occasions, but only for hours at a time.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.