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Jason-3 reaches orbit, will monitor global sea-level rise, hurricane intensity

17 January 2016

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Jason-3, a U.S.-European satellite mission, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:42 a.m. PST on 17 January aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, to become the latest spacecraft to track the rate of global sea-level rise. Jason-3 will also help NOAA's National Weather Service more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones that threaten America's coasts.

Jason-3 will undergo a six-month phase to test the satellite's instruments in orbit. Once complete, it will officially begin operations, joining Jason-2, which was launched in 2008.

While flying in a low orbit, 830 miles above the Earth, Jason-3 will use a radar altimeter instrument to monitor 95 percent of the world's ice-free oceans every 10 days. Since the Topex/Poseidon, and Jason satellite missions started in 1992, researchers have observed global sea-level rise occurring at a rate of 3 mm a year, resulting in a total change of 70 mm - or 2.8 inches - in 23 years.

"Jason-3 will continue the legacy of the Topex/Poseidon and earlier Jason satellites by gathering environmental intelligence from the world's oceans," said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, which is leading the international mission. "Jason-3 will tell us about the heat of the ocean, vital data if a tropical storm or hurricane is tracking into that location. Having up-to-date sea surface temperatures will help NOAA forecasters better determine if a storm may intensify."

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls - Falcon 9 rocket launch carrying Jason-3

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