Ocean-mapping craft dies after 11 yrs.

2013-07-04T00:00:00Z Ocean-mapping craft dies after 11 yrs.The Associated Press The Associated Press
July 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PASADENA, Calif. - Jason-1, a satellite that for more than a decade precisely tracked rising sea levels across a vast sweep of ocean and helped forecasters make better weather and climate predictions, has ended its useful life after circling the globe more than 53,500 times, NASA announced Wednesday.

The joint U.S. and French satellite was decommissioned this week after its last remaining transmitter failed, according to a NASA statement.

Launched on Dec. 7, 2001, Jason-1 was designed to have a lifespan of three to five years but it lasted for 11 years.

Every 10 days, its instruments scanned the ocean surface, mapping sea level, wind speed and wave height for more than 95 percent of the planet's ice-free ocean area.

It was one of three oceanographic satellites that contributed to a 20-year record of sea-level changes, NASA said.

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

Since its launch, Jason-1 recorded a rise of nearly 1.6 inches in global sea levels that are "a critical measure of climate change and a direct result of global warming," Grunsfeld said in a statement.

Last year, the 1,100-pound satellite was moved into a final "graveyard" orbit where, its extra fuel depleted, it was assigned to observe Earth's gravity field over the ocean, NASA said.

A 406-day scan completed on June 17 led to the discovery of many underwater seamounts and increased knowledge of the depth of the ocean floor, researchers said.

Contact with the satellite was lost on June 21 and efforts to re-establish it failed. On Monday, the satellite was ordered to turn off its attitude-control systems. Jason-1 will slowly turn away from the sun and its solar-powered batteries will drain within the next 90 days, NASA said. Jason-1 will remain in orbit for at least 1,000 years before it falls back into Earth's atmosphere, NASA said.

Jason-1 was one of three oceanographic satellites that carried a radar altimeter and bounced radio pulses off the Earth, enabling sea surface height to be determined to within a few centimeters.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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