Jason-1 Satellite Decommissioned
July 3, 2013

After Systems Failure, Jason-1 Satellite Officially Decommissioned

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

More than 11 years ago, NASA launched the Jason-1 ocean altimetry satellite into orbit in a joint venture with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The satellite would be used to map sea levels, wave height and wind speed from miles above the ocean's surface. Since that time, one successor satellite, the Jason-2, has been sent into space to supplement this information. The Jason-3 is expected to launch in 2015.

Two weeks ago, NASA mission controllers lost contact with the Jason-1 after the last operational transmitter onboard the satellite stopped working. Now the space agency has decided to abandon this satellite and focus their attention on the other two satellites currently orbiting Earth.

"Jason-1 has been a resounding scientific, technical and international success," explained John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement.

"The mission met all of its requirements, performed an extended mission and demonstrated how a long-term climate data record should be established from successively launched satellites. Since launch, it has charted nearly 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) of rise in global sea levels, a critical measure of climate change and a direct result of global warming. The Jason satellite series provides the most accurate measure of this impact, which is felt all over the globe."

While in orbit, the Jason-1 spent time with its predecessor, the Topex/Poseidon. The Mission/Jason-2 joined these crafts in 2008 to help gain a better understanding of climate change over the past twenty years. According to NASA, the coordinated orbits of these satellites doubled the amount of data captured about the Earth's sea levels, temperatures and climate conditions.

These satellites also worked in concert with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Envisat mission. The ESA also collected data about sea levels and allowed both teams to understand the circulation of the sea's waters and other phenomena such as eddies and tides. Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French agency CNES, also praised the Jason-1 for its service to the cause of science.

"Jason-1 was an exemplary and multi-faceted altimeter mission and contributed so much to so many scientific disciplines," said Le Gall.

"Not only did Jason-1 extend the precise climate record established by Topex/Poseidon, it made invaluable observations for mesoscale ocean studies on its second, interleaved orbit. Even from its 'graveyard' orbit, Jason-1 continued to make unprecedented new observations of the Earth's gravity field, with precise measurements right till the end."

Just before NASA lost contact with the Jason-1, all systems were operating well with no signs of trouble. On June 21, ground stations lost contact with the satellite and tried to reestablish a connection. Unsuccessful, the NASA and CNES teams met with the manufacturers of Jason-1's transmitters and determined it had suffered a non-recoverable failure.

On July 1, mission managers gave the command to decommission the satellite. With its magnetometer and reaction wheels now turned off, the satellite will float lifelessly in space and will not come into contact with Earth for another 1,000 years.