Jason-3 is a satellite created by a partnership of the European Organisation for the Exploration of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), and is an international cooperative mission in which NOAA is partnering with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES, France's governmental space agency). The satellites' mission is to supply data for scientific, commercial, and practical applications to sea level rise, sea surface temperature, ocean temperature circulation, and climate change.[4]

Artist's impression of the Jason-3 satellite
NamesJoint Altimetry Satellite Oceanography Network – 3
Mission typeEarth observation
COSPAR ID2016-002A
SATCAT no.41240
Mission durationPlanned: 5 years
Elapsed: 3 years, 10 months and 27 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerThales Alenia Space
Launch mass553 kg (1,219 lb)[1]
Dry mass525 kg (1,157 lb)[1]
Power550 watts[1]
Start of mission
Launch dateJanuary 17, 2016, 18:42:18 (2016-01-17UTC18:42:18) UTC[2]
RocketFalcon 9 v1.1
Launch siteVandenberg SLC-4E
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Semi-major axis7,715.8 km (4,794.4 mi)
Perigee altitude1,331.7 km (827.5 mi)
Apogee altitude1,343.7 km (834.9 mi)
Period112.42 minutes
Argument of perigee268.03°
Mean anomaly91.98°
Mean motion12.81 rev/day
Repeat interval9.92 days
EpochJuly 16, 2016, 19:55:51 UTC[3]
Ocean Surface Topography

Mission objectives

Jason-3 will make precise measurements related to global sea surface height. This data is important to collect and analyze because it is a critical factor in understanding Earth's changing climate.

Scientific applications

The primary users of Jason-3 data are people who are dependent on marine and weather forecasts for public safety, commerce and environmental purposes. Other users include scientists and people who are concerned with global warming and its relation to the ocean. NOAA and EUMETSAT are using the data primarily for monitoring wind and waves on the high seas, hurricane intensity, ocean surface currents, El Niño forecasts, water levels of lakes and rivers. NASA and CNES are more interested in the research aspect, in terms of understanding and planning for climate change. Ultimately, the benefits of Jason-3 data will transfer to people and to the economy.


Jason-3 flies at the same 9.9-day repeat track orbit and this means the satellite will make observations over the same ocean point every 9.9 days. The orbital parameters are: 66.05º inclination, 1380 km apogee, 1328 km perigee, 112 minutes per revolution around Earth. It is flying 1 minute behind Jason-2. The 1 minute time delay is applied in order to not miss any data collection between missions.

Orbit Determination Instruments

In order to detect sea level change, we need to know the orbit height of the satellites as they revolve around Earth, to within 1 centimeter (0.4 inches). Combining instruments from three different techniques—GPS, DORIS, LRA. The GPS receiver on Jason-3 uses data from the constellation of GPS satellites in orbit to constantly determine its position in orbit.[4]


Appearing on the SpaceX manifest as early as July 2013,[5] Jason-3 was originally scheduled for launch on July 22, 2015. However, this date was pushed back to August 19 following the discovery of contamination in one of the satellite's thrusters, requiring the thruster to be replaced and further inspected.[6][7] The launch was further delayed by several months due to the loss of a Falcon 9 rocket with the CRS-7 mission on June 28.[8]

After SpaceX conducted their return-to-flight mission in December 2015 with the upgraded Falcon 9 Full Thrust, Jason-3 was assigned to the final previous-generation Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, although some parts of the rocket body had been reworked following the findings of the failure investigation.[9][10]

A 7-second static fire test of the rocket was completed on January 11, 2016.[11] The Launch Readiness Review was signed off by all parties on January 15, 2016, and the launch proceeded successfully on January 17, 2016, at 18:42 UTC. The Jason-3 payload was deployed into its target orbit at 830 miles (1,336 km) altitude after an orbital insertion burn about 56 minutes into the flight.[12] It was the 21st Falcon 9 flight overall[9] and the second into a high-inclination orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4E in California.[6]

Post-mission landing test

Following paperwork filed with US regulatory authorities in 2015,[13] SpaceX confirmed in January 2016 that they would attempt a controlled-descent flight test and vertical landing of the rocket's first stage on their west-coast floating platform Just Read the Instructions,[14] located about 200 miles (320 km) out in the Pacific Ocean.

This attempt followed the first successful landing and booster recovery on the previous launch in December 2015.[15][16] The controlled descent through the atmosphere and landing attempt for each booster is an arrangement that is not used on other orbital launch vehicles.[17]

Approximately nine minutes into the flight, the live video feed from the drone ship went down due to the losing its lock on the uplink satellite. Elon Musk later reported that the first stage did touch down smoothly on the ship, but a lockout on one of the four landing legs failed to latch, so that the booster fell over and was destroyed.[18][19][20]

Debris from the fire, including several rocket engines attached to the octaweb assembly, arrived back to shore on board the floating landing platform on January 18, 2016.[21]

See also


  1. "Satellite: JASON-3". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  2. "Jason-3 Ocean-Monitoring Satellite healthy after smooth ride atop Falcon 9 Rocket". Spaceflight 101. January 17, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  3. "Jason 3 – Orbit". Heavens Above. July 16, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  4. "Jason-3 Satellite - Mission". www.nesdis.noaa.gov. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  5. "Launch Manifest – Future Missions". SpaceX. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013.
  6. Rhian, Jason (June 3, 2015). "Thruster contamination on NOAA's Jason-3 satellite forces delay". Spaceflight Insider.
  7. Clark, Stephen (June 18, 2015). "Jason 3 satellite shipped to Vandenberg for SpaceX launch". Spaceflight Now.
  8. "CRS-7 Investigation Update". SpaceX. July 20, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. Our investigation is ongoing until we exonerate all other aspects of the vehicle, but at this time, we expect to return to flight this fall and fly all the customers we intended to fly in 2015 by end of year.
  9. Bergin, Chris (September 7, 2015). "SpaceX conducts additional Falcon 9 improvements ahead of busy schedule". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  10. Gebhardt, Chris (January 8, 2016). "SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 conducts static fire test ahead of Jason-3 mission". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  11. Curie, Mike (January 11, 2016). "SpaceX Falcon 9 Static Fire Complete for Jason-3". NASA. Retrieved January 12, 2016. At Space Launch Complex 4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the static test fire of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the upcoming Jason-3 launch was completed Monday at 5:35 p.m. PST, 8:35 p.m. EST. The first stage engines fired for the planned full duration of 7 seconds.
  12. Jason-3 Hosted Webcast. YouTube.com. SpaceX. January 17, 2016. Event occurs at 1:37:08 (55:58 after lift-off). Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  13. "Application for Special Temporary Authority". Federal Communications Commission. December 28, 2015.
  14. Coldewey, Devin (January 7, 2016). "SpaceX Plans Drone Ship Rocket Landing for Jan. 17 Launch". NBC News. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  15. "Press Kit: ORBCOMM-2 Mission" (PDF). SpaceX. December 21, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2015. This mission also marks SpaceX's return-to-flight as well as its first attempt to land a first stage on land. The landing of the first stage is a secondary test objective.
  16. Gebhardt, Chris (December 31, 2015). "Year In Review, Part 4: SpaceX and Orbital ATK recover and succeed in 2015". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  17. "SpaceX wants to land next booster at Cape Canaveral". Florida Today. December 1, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  18. Jason-3 Hosted Webcast. YouTube.com. SpaceX. January 17, 2016. Event occurs at 1:06:30 (25:20 after lift-off). Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  19. Boyle, Alan (January 17, 2016). "SpaceX rocket launches satellite, but tips over during sea landing attempt". GeekWire. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  20. Musk, Elon (January 17, 2016). "Flight 21 landing and breaking a leg". Instagram.
  21. "SpaceX rocket wreckage back on shore after near-miss at landing". Spaceflight Now. January 20, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016.

About the satellite

About the flight

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