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Decommissioned Earth science satellite to remain in orbit for centuries

10 Oct 2019, 19:50 UTC
Decommissioned Earth science satellite to remain in orbit for centuries
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A U.S.-European satellite that completed its mission earlier this month has been decommissioned but will remain in orbit for as long as 1,000 years, far beyond existing orbital debris mitigation guidelines.
Jason-2, a joint mission of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the French space agency CNES and European weather agency Eumetsat, ended its mission to study sea-level height Oct. 1. The spacecraft, also known as Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM), launched in June 2008 for a mission originally expected to last three years.
The decision to shut down Jason-2 came after telemetry indicated the spacecraft’s power system was deteriorating. Earlier problems with Jason-2 in 2017 forced controllers to move the spacecraft into a slightly lower orbit and delete its excess propellant reserves to avoid any interference with its successor, Jason-3, launched in 2016.
“Today we celebrate the end of this resoundingly successful international mission,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in an Oct. 4 statement about the decision to end the mission. “Jason-2/OSTM has provided unique insight into ocean currents and sea level rise with tangible benefits to marine forecasting, meteorology and our understanding of climate change.”
According to that statement, “final ...

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