The Jason 3 oceanography satellite, a joint project between U.S. and European weather agencies, is closed up inside the nose cone of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket awaiting launch from California’s Central Coast on Sunday.
Technicians from SpaceX and Thales Alenia Space, the French manufacturer of the Jason 3 spacecraft, oversaw the encapsulation procedure Jan. 8 inside SpaceX’s payload processing facility at Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
With a launch weight of approximately 1,124 pounds, or 510 kilograms, Jason 3 sits inside the Falcon 9’s clamshell-like fairing, which measures 17 feet, or 5.2 meters, in diameter. Ground crews planned to attach the payload shroud containing Jason 3 to the rocket Wednesday.
Jason 3 carries a radar altimeter instrument to detect the heights of ocean waves and monitor sea level rise, variables critical in forecasting tropical cyclone development, predicting large-scale climate patterns, and tracking the consequences of climate change.
Liftoff from Vandenberg is set for 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 p.m. EST; 1842:18 GMT) Sunday.
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