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Status: Current
Mission Category: Inter-Agency Partnerships
Launch Date: January 17, 2016
Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA

Jason-3 is the fourth mission in U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the height of the ocean surface. Launched on January 17, 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 Jason-1 (launched in 2001) and the currently operating 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.

Key Jason-3 Facts

Mission/Portal Page:
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Altitude:Distance from sea level. 1336km
Inclination: 66°
Origination: Joint with NOAA, CNES, and EUMETSAT
Instruments: Altimeter
Microwave radiometer
DORIS (Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite)
Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA)
Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver
Project Scientist(s): Joshua Willis
Lee-Lueng Fu
Other Key Personnel: Margaret Srinivasan

Relevant Science Focus Areas:

  • Climate Variability and Change
  • Water and Energy Cycles

Relevant Science Questions:

  • How does the Earth system respond to natural and human-induced changes?
  • How is the global Earth system changing?
  • How will the Earth system change in the future?

Science Goals:

  • Jason-3 will continue to meet the following science goals of the ocean surface topography effort
  • Determine general ocean circulation and understand its role in Earth's climate, particularly how ocean circulation impacts Earth's hydrological and biogeochemical cycles.
  • Study the variation of ocean circulation on time scales ranging from seasonal and annual to decadal and examine how this variation impacts climate change.
  • Collaborate with other global ocean-monitoring programs to produce routine models of the global ocean for scientific and operational applications.
  • Study large-scale ocean tides.
  • Study geophysical processes and their effects on ocean surface topography.

Related Applications:

  • Coastal Management
  • Disaster Management