A satellite that had sat in storage for years will be launched this month to replace an aging satellite used to monitor space weather for the United States.
The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) will give officials a 15- to 60-minute lead time for approaching solar storms that could disrupt electric supplies, communications, GPS navigation, satellites and air travel.
A severe solar event could cause up to $2 trillion in damages and other costs and take up to 10 years from which to recover, the National Research Council of the National Academies estimated in a 2008 report.
A coronal mass ejection (CME), or a cloud of charged particles released from solar activity, can also reach the Earth's atmosphere and induce geomagnetic storms, allowing the northern lights to dance across skies.
The earliest DSCOVR's launch will take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is Feb. 8, NASA said.
NASA may initially encounter weather issues for the launch.
"Early indication is that a cold front will push through Florida late this weekend or early next week, which could bring showers to the Space Coast," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Mike Doll said.
DSCOVR was first conceived as an Earth science mission in the late 1990s, but the mission was scrubbed in 2001 and the satellite put into storage at the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The satellite was tested in 2008 and determined to fit the needs of space weather forecasting for both NOAA and the U.S. Air Force, NASA said. The current solar detection satellite is more than 10 years beyond its life expectancy.
The NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, issues short-term warnings of solar storms. Forecasters use solar wind speed, density and temperature in making those warnings.
After launch, DSCOVR will take up an orbit about 1 million miles away from Earth. It will also have the ability to measure the Earth's atmosphere and to take a picture of the Earth in one image, something currently not available to researchers, NASA said.