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Ocean Surface Topography Mission
Artist's impression of the Jason-3 satellite
Mission type Earth orbiter
Operator NASA
Website Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Mission duration 5 years (design)
Spacecraft properties
Bus Proteus
Manufacturer Thales Alenia Space
Launch mass 525 kg
Start of mission
Launch date January 17, 2016 18:42:18 (2016-01-17UTC18:42:18Z) GMT (planned)
Rocket Falcon 9 v1.1
Launch site Vandenberg SLC-4E
Contractor SpaceX
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 1328 km
Apogee 1380 km
Inclination 66.05°
Period 112 minutes

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


Jason-3 was originally planned for launch on July 22, 2015. However, this date was pushed back to August 19 following the discovery of contamination in one of the satellites thrusters, requiring the thruster to be replaced and further inspected.[2][3] The launch was further delayed following the failure of a Falcon 9 rocket on the SpaceX CRS-7 mission. The satellite is currently scheduled for launch on January 17, 2016, aboard the final Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket.

Science objectives

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 is built around a Proteus satellite bus, built 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.[4] Jason-3 weighs about 525 kg at launch, with a dry mass of 500 kg.[5]


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]


  1. "What is Jason-3?". NOAA.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jason Rhian. "Thruster contamination on NOAA's Jason-3 satellite forces delay". Spaceflight Insider.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stephen Clark (June 18, 2015). "Jason 3 satellite shipped to Vandenberg for SpaceX launch". Spaceflight Now.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Jason-3 Spacecraft & Instruments". Spaceflight 101. Retrieved January 6, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  6. "Spacecraft". NOAA.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>