A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather satellite is set to lift off Sunday, as part of an ongoing international effort to measure the physical features of the ocean surfaces.
The launch of Jason-3, an international mission led by the NOAA to continue U.S.- European satellite measurements, is scheduled for Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:42:18 p.m. ET from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 East. If needed, a backup launch opportunity is available on the Western Range on Jan. 18 at 1:31:04 p.m. ET.
If successful, Jason-3 will monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights for up to five years, watching for the intensification of tropical cyclones and supporting seasonal and coastal forecasts, according to NASA. The data will also be used to help with studies of ocean circulation and climate change as well as the human impacts on the world’s oceans.
In a tweet on Monday Musk confirmed that the rocket landing attempt will use a droneship, or floating ocean platform. SpaceX’s previous landing attempts on droneships have ended in fiery blasts. The plans to land the rocket on an ocean platform follows last month’s successful launch and landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
In that case, SpaceX managed to land the 15-story leftover booster back on Earth safely. It was the first time an unmanned rocket returned to land vertically at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and represented a tremendous success for SpaceX.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.