Satellite instruments and the data they provide are incredibly precise. Once operational, the Jason-3 satellite will be able to detect changes in sea level height down to the millimeter. This requires a careful fine-tuning of the instruments from here on Earth.
Once they reach space, satellites are put through a “commissioning phase” that usually lasts a few months. During this phase, the teams check each of the satellite’s systems to make sure they are working properly. They will also evaluate the accuracy of the data coming from the satellite and make sure that the instruments it carries are properly calibrated. Once all systems are checked out and deemed operational, the satellite will be moved into its final destination orbit.
Three days after Jason-3 launched, our partners at CNES began to acquire and process real-time data from the satellite. NOAA and CNES will continue to calibrate and validate the instruments and data while EUMETSAT conducts processing trials of the data received at the Usingen ground station. Once this six month phase is complete, Jason-3 will officially begin operations in its planned orbit.
These highly detailed measurements of sea surface height, a measure used to study sea level rise, are a critical factor in understanding Earth’s dynamic climate. Sea surface height data are also used to study hurricane intensity, tsunami dynamics, El Niño Southern Oscillation, eddy dynamics, ocean boundary currents, coastal and shallow water tides, as well as weather and climate forecasting.
Below is a list of major commissioning phase milestones for the Jason-3 satellite. Be sure to stay tuned to the Jason-3 homepageand the NESDIS Twitter and Facebook pages for milestone updates and information as Jason-3 prepares to continue to an over 20-year data legacy. The measurements from Jason-3 will advance our efforts to understand the Earth as a system and the causes of sea level rise.