SpaceX Launching NASA Jason-3 Ocean Surveillance Satellite Jan. 17; with Barge Rocket Landing – Watch Live

SpaceX Launching NASA Jason-3 Ocean Surveillance Satellite Jan. 17; with Barge Rocket Landing – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rolls out to California launch pad in advance of Jason-3 launch for NASA on Jan. 17, 2016.   Credit: SpaceX

The joint NASA-European ocean surveillance satellite named Jason-3 is poised for blastoff from SpaceX’s California launch pad on Sunday, Jan. 17 – followed immediately by another Falcon 9 rocket recovery landing on a barge at sea.The weather forecast is outstanding! And you can watch all the excitement live!The primary goal is to deliver Jason-3 to low Earth orbit, where it will gather global measurements of ocean topography, or wave heights. These data provide scientists with essential information about global and regional changes in the Earth’s seas such as tracking sea level rise that threatens the resilience of coastal communities and the health of our environment.“Jason-3 is gathering environmental intelligence form the world’s oceans.”To top that off, SpaceX plans to move forward with their ambitious spaceflight agenda on rocket reuse. So the secondary mission goal is attempting a 2nd rocket recovery landing of the firms Falcon 9 booster in barely 4 weeks time – this time on an ocean going barge.The weather prognosis for launch is currently 100 Percent ‘GO’ – and that’s as good as it gets!Liftoff of the two stage 224 foot tall SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Jason-3 to Earth orbit is now less than a day away.Launch is scheduled for the opening of the 30-second launch window on Sunday morning, Jan. 17 at 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 EST) from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC 4) on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.You can watch the dramatic events unfold via a live NASA TV webcast available at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntvCountdown updates begin at 8 a.m. PST, 11 a.m. EST.The backup launch window for a second attempt, if needed, is on Monday, January 18 at 10:31:04 a.m. PST. Monday’s weather prognosis drops to only 70 Percent ‘GO’ according to Air Force meteorologists.The Falcon 9 rocket with Jason-3 bolted atop was rolled out from a processing hangar at Vandenberg AFB to the SLC 4 launch pad on Friday, Jan. 15 after it passed the Launch Readiness Review. It was raised into the vertical position on the launch pad at 11:11 a.m. PST today, Saturday, Jan. 16.Jason-3 is the fourth mission in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the wave heights of the world’s ocean surfaces.“These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world,” say NASA officials.Jason-3 was built by Thales Alenia of France. It will measure the topography of the ocean surface for a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat).The $ 180 million mission is expected to operate for at least five years.SpaceX is now aiming to chalk up two successful rocket launches and landings in a row over the past month – if all goes well with Sunday’s Falcon 9 liftoff.The Falcon 9 first stage will be guided to a soft landing on the barge named “Just Read The Instructions,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president for mission assurance during a pre-launch media briefing on Jan. 15.The 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing atop the barge once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.Two prior SpaceX attempts at a precision landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) barge came very close with pinpoint approaches to the oceangoing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the rocket tipped over in the final moments and was destroyed.The mission also marks the final launch of the v1.1 version of the SpaceX Falcon 9, first flown in Sept 2013. That flight was also the last time SpaceX launched a rocket from their California launch pad.Henceforth, the Falcon 9 will launch in the newly upgraded ‘Full Thrust’ version featuring more powerful first stage Merlin 1D engines. The first ‘Full Thrust’ Falcon 9 was used during the historic rocket recovery launch on Dec. 21, 2015.Koenigsmann also confirmed that SpaceX plans another three or four Falcon 9 launches from Vandenberg AFB throughout this year.Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.Ken Kremer

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