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Jason-3 2015 illustration (crop).jpg
Artist's impression of the Jason-3 satellite
Names Joint Altimetry Satellite Oceanography Network – 3
Mission type Earth observation
COSPAR ID 2016-002A
SATCAT no. 41240
Website http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/jason-3/
Mission duration Planned: 5 years
Elapsed: 1 year, 8 months and 6 days
Spacecraft properties
Bus Proteus
Manufacturer Thales Alenia Space
Launch mass 553 kg (1,219 lb)[1]
Dry mass 525 kg (1,157 lb)[1]
Power 550 watts[1]
Start of mission
Launch date January 17, 2016, 18:42:18 (2016-01-17UTC18:42:18) UTC[2]
Rocket Falcon 9 v1.1
Launch site Vandenberg SLC-4E
Contractor SpaceX
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Semi-major axis 7,715.8 km (4,794.4 mi)
Eccentricity 0.0007824
Perigee 1,331.7 km (827.5 mi)
Apogee 1,343.7 km (834.9 mi)
Inclination 66.04°
Period 112.42 minutes
RAAN 98.69°
Argument of perigee 268.03°
Mean anomaly 91.98°
Mean motion 12.81 rev/day
Repeat interval 9.92 days
Epoch July 16, 2016, 19:55:51 UTC[3]
Ocean Surface Topography

Jason-3 is an international Earth observation satellite mission that continues the ocean surface height measurements begun in 1992 by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission, followed by Jason-1 launched in 2001 and Jason-2 in 2008.[4]

Jason-3 is the result of a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales), and EUMETSAT (the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). The spacecraft was built by Thales Alenia Space and launched by SpaceX on the 21st Falcon 9 flight.

Science objectives[edit]

The science objectives for Jason-3 are:[citation needed]

  • Extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements beyond TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 to accomplish two decades of observations
  • Provide a minimum of three years of global ocean surface topography measurement
  • Determine the variability of ocean circulation at decadal time scales from combined data record of TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1
  • Improve the measure of the time-averaged ocean circulation
  • Improve the measure of global sea level change
  • Improve open ocean tide models


The satellite was built around a Proteus satellite bus by Thales Alenia Space under contract from CNES. A pair of deployable, tracking solar arrays supply a total of 580 watts of power. Four hydrazine monopropellant thrusters are used for orbital maneuvering. Attitude control is provided by reaction wheels, with magnetorquers used to periodically despin the wheels.[5] Jason-3 weighed about 553 kg (1,219 lb) at launch, with a dry mass of 525 kg (1,157 lb).[1]


Jason-3 carries five main instruments. The primary instrument is the Poseidon-3B Altimeter, which is derived from the Poseidon-3 carried on Jason-2. The other main instruments are Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS), Advanced Microwave Radiometer-2 (AMR-2), Global Positioning System Payload (GPSP), and Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA). Two additional "passenger instruments" are carried as part of the Joint Radiation Experiment. These are CARMEN-3 (Characterization and Modeling of Environment), which measures charged particle flux, and Light Particle Telescope (LPT), which measures radiation and charged particles.[6]


Falcon 9 rolling out on January 15, 2015

Appearing on the SpaceX manifest as early as July 2013,[7] 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.[8][9] 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.[10]

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.[11][12]

A 7-second static fire test of the rocket was completed on January 11, 2016.[13] 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.[14] It was the 21st Falcon 9 flight overall[11] and the second into a high-inclination orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4E in California.[8]

Post-mission landing test[edit]

First stage of Falcon 9 Flight 21 descending over the floating landing platform, January 17, 2016

Following paperwork filed with US regulatory authorities in 2015,[15] 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,[16] 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.[17][18] The controlled descent through the atmosphere and landing attempt for each booster is an arrangement that is not used on other orbital launch vehicles.[19]

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.[20][21][22]

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.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "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. ^ "What is Jason-3?". NOAA. 
  5. ^ "Jason-3 Spacecraft & Instruments". Spaceflight 101. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Spacecraft". NOAA. 
  7. ^ "Launch Manifest – Future Missions". SpaceX. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Rhian, Jason (June 3, 2015). "Thruster contamination on NOAA's Jason-3 satellite forces delay". Spaceflight Insider. 
  9. ^ Clark, Stephen (June 18, 2015). "Jason 3 satellite shipped to Vandenberg for SpaceX launch". Spaceflight Now. 
  10. ^ "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. 
  11. ^ a b Bergin, Chris (September 7, 2015). "SpaceX conducts additional Falcon 9 improvements ahead of busy schedule". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "Application for Special Temporary Authority". Federal Communications Commission. December 28, 2015. 
  16. ^ Coldewey, Devin (January 7, 2016). "SpaceX Plans Drone Ship Rocket Landing for Jan. 17 Launch". NBC News. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  17. ^ "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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ "SpaceX wants to land next booster at Cape Canaveral". Florida Today. December 1, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Boyle, Alan (January 17, 2016). "SpaceX rocket launches satellite, but tips over during sea landing attempt". GeekWire. Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  22. ^ Musk, Elon (January 17, 2016). "Flight 21 landing and breaking a leg". Instagram. 
  23. ^ "SpaceX rocket wreckage back on shore after near-miss at landing". Spaceflight Now. January 20, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016. 

External links[edit]

About the satellite[edit]

About the flight[edit]