A highly successful joint American/French satellite that, for almost a decade,
has provided measurements of global sea levels accurate to within 4 cm.
Its results have helped map ocean circulation patterns and improved our
understanding of how the oceans interact with the atmosphere and our ability
to predict the global climate. NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) provided
the satellite bus and five instruments, and is responsible for spacecraft
operations; CNES (the French space agency) furnished two of the spacecraft's
instruments and the launch vehicle. Much of the payload was devoted to measuring
the exact height of the satellite above the ocean using a laser altimeter
and correcting the altimetry data for effects such as the delay of radio
pulses because of water vapor in the atmosphere. TOPEX-Poseidon has proven
so successful that a follow-on mission, Jason-1,
was launched to extend sea-surface height measurements into the next decade.
||Aug. 10, 1992
||1,330 × 1,342 km × 66.0°
AND SPACE PROBES