February 8, 2016

Jason-3 approaching final operating orbit

Launched 17 January from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the Jason-3 oceanography satellite, controlled by CNES teams in Toulouse, is now in its orbital positioning phase, which will be continuing until 12 February.

The Jason-3 satellite is in good shape since its launch on 17 January. Pointing is nominal and its thrusters have been activated and calibrated. All instruments—DORIS, Poseidon 3B (which has already ‘pinged’ the surface and had its signals successfully processed by the ground segment), AMR and GPSP (JPL), CARMEN-3/AMBRE (CNES) and LPT (JAXA)—have been switched on and are functioning nominally.

In-orbit checkout will continue until end March. Meanwhile, CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre is manoeuvring the satellite to guide it to its nominal orbit, trailing just behind Jason-2. Thursday 4 February, a 5th manoeuvre—9 are scheduled in all—was performed and Jason-3 is now 12 km above Jason-2 and drifting gradually closer. Positioning operations are scheduled to end on the morning of 12 February, which will mark the start of the satellite’s 5-day cycle (cycle 0). Cycle 1 is therefore expected to start on 17 February.

The ground segment is also undergoing checkout and the performance of altimetry and orbitography products is being assessed. The first results look very promising. Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) operations went nominally and work is now focusing chiefly on manoeuvres and in-orbit checkout activities.

Jason-3. Credits: CNES/Ill. D. Ducros.