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Contamination Delays Launch of Ocean-Monitoring Satellite from Vandenberg AFB

The Jason-3 spacecraft was set to fly to space in July aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket

Jason-3 is the newest in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions designed to maintain long-term satellite observations of global sea surface height.
Jason-3 is the newest in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions designed to maintain long-term satellite observations of global sea surface height. (Contributed photo)

Contamination spotted during testing of the Jason-3 spacecraft has delayed its planned July 22 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The ocean-monitoring satellite is set to fly to space aboard a Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 East on South Base.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced the launch delay and start of an investigation.

“During spacecraft testing, engineers located contamination in one of the four thrusters on the spacecraft,” Jason-3 officials said. “The problem thruster has been replaced. An investigation into the contamination will continue during the next two weeks, as the new thruster is tested.”

A new launch date will be based on the findings of the review into the thruster contamination, NOAA officials said. 

The discovery occurred before the Jason-3 satellite traveled to Vandenberg from Europe where the U.S.-manufactured and other instruments were integrated on the spacecraft frame. 

Jason-3 is the newest in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions designed to maintain long-term satellite observations of global sea surface height. 

Officials say the data provide critical ocean information that forecasters need to predict devastating hurricanes and severe weather before they arrive onshore. 

Specifically, the satellite's highly accurate measures will be used for a variety of scientific, commercial and operational applications, such as forecasting hurricane intensity, forecasting tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing, forecasting for response to environmental problems like oil spills and harmful algal blooms, creating models crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research and forecasting for El Niño and La Niña weather conditions 

Jason-3 is designed to operate for three years, with the possibility of two more years for an extended mission.

NOAA is partnering with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (France’s governmental space agency), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Jason-1 launched in 2001 from Vandenberg, while the Ocean Surface Topography Mission on Jason-2 headed to space from the Santa Barbara County base in 2008. Jason-1 was decommissioned in July 2013; Jason-2 remains operational.

The satellites continued an ocean-monitoring mission that began with the 1992 launch of the Topex/Poseidon spacecraft which launched aboard an Ariane 4 rocket from French Guiana.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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