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16 Years After Its Inception, 'GoreSat' Set For Launch ... Soon

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket stands ready for a sunset launch from complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Sunday. It will be carrying aloft the DSCOVR satellite.

Update 6:10 p.m. ET Launch Scrubbed

At t-minus 2 minutes and 26 seconds to launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was scrubbed due to an issue with the system used to track the rocket. The team will review the issue and calculate the next available launch window in order to reschedule.

Our original post continues below:

Al Gore may not have invented the Internet (and, contrary to the popular myth, he never claimed to), but he at least he inspired a satellite.

If all goes according to plan, at 6:10 p.m. ET, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will lift off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying aloft the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, that got its start in 1998.

Then-Vice President Gore was fascinated by the Apollo views of Earth from space and thought that having a camera pointed at our planet might cause us to look at it a bit differently.

So, Gore proposed a satellite that would focus a camera back on the Earth from L1, or Lagrangian Point No. 1. L1 is about 930,000 miles away, where the gravitational forces of the Earth and Sun are in equipoise. A spacecraft parked there will remain on station indefinitely. (If you're a fan of the mathematics behind orbital mechanics, here you go).

But, as NPR's Joe Palca reported on Friday: "then Gore lost an election to George W. Bush. The new Republican president and the Republicans in Congress weren't interested in Democrat Gore's pet project. They mockingly called it 'GoreSat.'"

The satellite, then known as Triana, was mothballed. In 2009, however, it was revived, renamed and repurposed as a weather satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

DSCOVR, which still has Gore's camera aboard, "is not meant to provide the next generation of technology," Mary Kicza, who retired in July as NOAA's assistant administrator for satellite and information services at the agency's Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters, a few miles from Goddard, is quoted by Air& Space as saying. "It was the lowest-cost, lowest-risk option for meeting our requirements."

One more thing: SpaceX will make a second attempt to land the Falcon 9's spent booster stage on a seaborne platform. Their first attempt, last month, was in the words of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk "Close, but no cigar."

Space.com has a live feed of the launch, courtesy of NASA TV, here.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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