SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch Jason-3 on Sunday, Attempt Barge Landing

Jason-3 satellite (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Preparations are proceeding smoothly at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the planned Sunday launch of the Jason-3 environmental satellite. The 30-second launch window on Jan. 17 opens at 10:42:18 a.m. PST.

At Space Launch Complex 4, the static test fire of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket 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.

The initial review of the data appears to show a satisfactory test, but will be followed by a more thorough data review on Tuesday.  With this test complete, the next step in prelaunch preparations is to mate the rocket and the Jason-3 spacecraft, which is encapsulated in the payload fairing. This also is planned to occur as soon as Tuesday.

A final review, the Launch Readiness Review, will be held at Vandenberg on Friday, Jan. 15.

SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage on a barge anchored off shore.

Mission Summary

Jason-3 is the fourth mission in U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the height of the ocean surface. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission will extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements (the hills and valleys of the ocean surface) begun by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission in 1992 and continuing through the currently operating Jason-1 (launched in 2001) and OSTM/Jason-2 (launched in 2008) missions. These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world.

The primary instrument on Jason-3 is a radar altimeter. The altimeter will measure sea-level variations over the global ocean with very high accuracy (as 1.3 inches or 3.3 centimeters, with a goal of achieving 1 inch or 2.5 centimeters). Continual, long-term, reliable data of changes in ocean surface topography will be generated and will be used by scientists and operational agencies (NOAA, European weather agencies, marine operators, etc.) for scientific research and operational oceanography for the benefit of society.

TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 were cooperative missions between NASA and the French space agency, CNES. Additional partners in the Jason-2 mission included NOAA and Eumetsat. Jason-3 continues the international cooperation, with NOAA and Eumetsat leading the efforts, along with partners NASA and CNES.