Key satellite to gauge global sea level rise launched

Washington, Jan 18 (IANS) A key ocean-monitoring satellite on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sunday that will continue a nearly quarter-century record of tracking global sea level rise.

The international mission Jason-3, a US-European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation, will continue to monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights, observe the intensification of tropical cyclones and support seasonal and coastal forecasts, the US space agency said in a statement.

Jason-3 data will also benefit fishery management, marine industries and research into human impacts in the world’s oceans. The mission is planned to last at least five years.

“Jason-3 will take the pulse of our changing planet by gathering environmental intelligence from the world’s oceans,” said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

The $180-million mission will improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts, including helping NOAA’s National Weather Service and other global weather and environmental forecast agencies more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.

“The measurements from Jason-3 will advance our efforts to understand Earth as an integrated system by increasing our knowledge of sea level changes and the ocean’s roles in climate,” added John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at the NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Minutes after Jason-3 separated from the rocket’s second stage, the spacecraft unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays.

Ground controllers successfully acquired the spacecraft’s signals, and initial telemetry reports showed the satellite was in good health.

The international mission Jason-3 is led by the NOAA partnering with the US space agency NASA, CNES (the French Space Agency) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Meanwhile, the US private spacecraft company SpaceX failed in its attempt to land the spent first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a ship in the ocean.

Shortly after lift-off, SpaceX tried to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a floating drone ship in the ocean, with a landing zone of 150 feet (45.7 meters) by 250 feet (76.2 meters).

But about 25 minutes after the rocket lifted off, SpaceX tweeted, “First stage on target at droneship but looks like hard landing; broke landing leg…Second stage re-ignition successful. Jason-3 satellite has been deployed.”

“After further data review, stage landed softly but leg 3 didn’t lockout. Was within 1.3 meters of droneship center,” SpaceX confirmed later.

Kevin Meissner, who used to work for SpaceX, told Xinhua, “the sea landing does not require much fuel because you do not need to turn around and fly all the way back to the land”.

Data from Jason-3 will also be used for other scientific, commercial and operational applications, including forecasts of El Nino and La Nina events.

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