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Jason-3, the ocean odyssey

Understanding how Earth works is the key to meeting the climate change challenges ahead. After the Copenhagen summit in 2010, we must do everything in our power to make the next COP 21 conference in Paris this December a success. To achieve this, we will need objective science supplied mostly by international Earth-observing space systems.

Credits Cnes, juin 2015. With interviews of  Dr. Michael Freilich, Earth Science Division Director, NASA, Parag Vaze, Jason-3/SWOT project manager, JPL, Gérard Zaouche, Jason-3 Project Leader, CNES, Alain Ratier, Director General, Eumetsat, Gérard Zaouche, Jason-3 Project Leader, CNES.

France and the United States are pioneers in the field of ocean science. TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and Jason-2 have revolutionized what we know about global ocean circulation.

Our planet is warming as a result of greenhouse gases, the main indicator of this trend being sea level. Continuing to closely monitor sea level with the launch of Jason-3 this year is therefore of the utmost importance.

Jason-1 completed its mission in 2013. Jason-2 was launched in 2008 and is now in its seventh year of operation, well past its planned three-year lifetime. To get a new satellite ready as soon as possible, we channelled all our know-how and expertise into Jason-3.

There are several hundred people working on this project in the United States and Europe, and at the industrial lead contractor Thales Alenia Space, as well as 100 at CNES, which is coordinating the system, satellite orbit operations and mission performance.

Besides sea level monitoring and its contribution to climate change research, the Jason-3 mission is set to pursue the development of operational oceanography. Applications serving seafarers, marine meteorology and many more sectors now rely on space oceanography data, so assuring continuity is crucial.

Interview Alain Ratier, Director General, Eumetsat: Right now, we’re in a transitional phase with the R&D agencies CNES and NASA, and the operational agencies NOAA and Eumetsat. It’s a close partnership addressing the key question of how to make the transition from demonstration and research missions to operational missions. That’s what we did for weather forecasting with Meteosat more than 30 years ago, so now we have to do the same for oceanography, and that’s what we’re working on.

An international community in more than 120 countries is now working towards this goal.

With strong support from this community and high-quality data and science return from the standard-setting Jason-3 satellite, close inter-agency collaboration will also help to prepare and accomplish new missions in the future.

Interview Gérard Zaouche, Jason-3 Project Leader, CNES: The immediate future is focused on getting Jason-3 into orbit and operational, to complement data from Jason-2 and SARAL. We must then continue to build up our altimetry constellation with Sentinel-3, Jason CS and SWOT, CNES and NASA’s flagship mission set to launch in 2020 that’s going to be a real game-changer, by measuring not only ocean topography but also surface water with unrivalled accuracy and coverage.

Interview Alain Ratier, Director General, Eumetsat: The future is more continuity, flying and evaluating SWOT, and then conceiving the best observation system for in 15 years’ time.

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