OSTM/Jason-2, or the Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite,[2] was an international Earth observation satellite mission that continued the sea surface height measurements begun in 1992 by the joint NASA/CNES TOPEX/Poseidon mission[3] and followed by the NASA/CNES Jason-1 mission launched in 2001.[4]

Ocean Surface Topography Mission
Artist's interpretation of the Jason-2 satellite
Mission typeEarth orbiter
COSPAR ID2008-032A
SATCAT no.33105
WebsiteOcean Surface Topography from Space
Mission durationDesign: 3 years
Final: 11 years, 3 months and 11 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerThales Alenia Space
Launch mass510 kilograms (1,120 lb)
Start of mission
Launch dateJune 20, 2008, 07:46:25 UTC
RocketDelta II 7320-10C D334
Launch siteVandenberg SLC-2W
End of mission
DeactivatedOctober 1, 2019[1]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Semi-major axis7,715.0 kilometers (4,793.9 mi)
Perigee altitude1,332 kilometers (828 mi)
Apogee altitude1,343 kilometers (835 mi)
Period6754.0 seconds
RAAN301,7746 degrees
Argument of perigee273,8057 degrees
Mean anomaly280,076 degrees
Epoch09 April 2016 21:16:10 UTC
OSTM sep
Jason-2 after separation from its carrier rocket


Like its two predecessors, OSTM/Jason-2 used high-precision ocean altimetry to measure the distance between the satellite and the ocean surface to within a few centimeters. These very accurate observations of variations in sea surface height—also known as ocean topography—provide information about global sea level, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and heat stored in the ocean.

Jason-2 was built by Thales Alenia Space using a Proteus platform, under a contract from CNES, as well as the main Jason-2 instrument, the Poseidon-3 altimeter (successor to the Poseidon and Poseidon 2 altimeter on-board TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1)

Scientists consider the 15-plus-year climate data record that this mission extended to be critical to understanding how ocean circulation is linked to global climate change.

OSTM/Jason-2 was launched on June 20, 2008, at 07:46 UTC, from Space Launch Complex 2W at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, by a Delta II 7320 rocket.[5] The spacecraft separated from the rocket 55 minutes later.[6]

It was placed in a 1,336 km (830 mi) circular, non-sun-synchronous orbit at an inclination of 66 degrees to Earth's equator, allowing it to monitor 95 percent of Earth's ice-free ocean every 10 days. Jason-1 was moved to the opposite side of Earth from Jason-2 and now flies over the same region of the ocean that Jason-2 flew over five days earlier.[7] Jason-1's ground tracks fall midway between those of Jason-2, which are about 315 kilometers (196 mi) apart at the equator. This interleaved tandem mission provided twice the number of measurements of the ocean's surface, bringing smaller features such as ocean eddies into view. The tandem mission also helped pave the way for a future ocean altimeter mission that would collect much more detailed data with its single instrument than the two Jason satellites did together.

With OSTM/Jason-2, ocean altimetry made the transition from research into operational mode. Responsibility for collecting these measurements moved from the space agencies to the world's weather and climate forecasting agencies, which use them for short-range, seasonal, and long-range weather and climate forecasting.[8]

Science objectives

  • Extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements beyond TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 to accomplish two decades of observations
  • Provide a minimum of three years of global ocean surface topography measurement
  • Determine the variability of ocean circulation at decadal time scales from combined data record of TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1
  • Improve the measure of the time-averaged ocean circulation
  • Improve the measure of global sea-level change
  • Improve open ocean tide models

Ocean altimetry

Spaceborne radar altimeters have proven to be superb tools for mapping ocean-surface topography, the hills and valleys of the sea surface. These instruments send a microwave pulse to the ocean's surface and time how long it takes to return. A microwave radiometer corrects any delay that may be caused by water vapor in the atmosphere. Other corrections are also required to account for the influence of electrons in the ionosphere and the dry air mass of the atmosphere. Combining these data with the precise location of the spacecraft makes it possible to determine sea-surface height to within a few centimetres (about one inch). The strength and shape of the returning signal also provides information on wind speed and the height of ocean waves. These data are used in ocean models to calculate the speed and direction of ocean currents and the amount and location of heat stored in the ocean, which, in turn, reveals global climate variations.

Atomic clock synchronization

Another payload aboard Jason-2 is the T2L2 (Time Transfer by Laser Link) instrument. T2L2 is used to synchronize atomic clocks at ground stations, and to calibrate the on-board clock of the Jason-2 DORIS instrument. On November 6, 2008, CNES reported the T2L2 instrument was working well.[9]

Joint effort

Jason 2 just before launch.

OSTM/Jason-2 was a joint effort by four organizations.[10] The mission participants were:

CNES provided the spacecraft, NASA and CNES jointly provided the payload instruments, and NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center was responsible for the launch management and countdown operations. After completing the on-orbit commissioning of the spacecraft, CNES handed over operation and control of the spacecraft to NOAA in October 2008.[11]

CNES processed, distributed, and archived the research-quality data products that became available in 2009. EUMETSAT processed and distributed operational data received by its ground station to users in Europe and archived that data. NOAA processed and distributed operational data received by its ground stations to non-European users and archived that data along with the CNES data products. NOAA and EUMETSAT both generated near-real-time data products and distributed them to users.

NASA evaluated the performance of the following instruments: the advanced microwave radiometer, the Global Positioning System payload, and the laser retroreflector assembly. NASA and CNES also validated scientific data products together. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Prior similar missions

1997 El Nino TOPEX
OSTM/Jason-2's predecessor TOPEX/Poseidon caught the largest El Niño in a century seen in this image from Dec. 1, 1997.

The two previous altimetry missions, TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, led to major advances in the science of physical oceanography and in climate studies.[12] Their 15-year data record of ocean surface topography provided the first opportunity to observe and understand the global change of ocean circulation and sea level. Their results improved scientific understanding of the role of the ocean in climate change and improved weather and climate predictions. Data from these missions were used to improve ocean models, forecast hurricane intensity, and identify and track large ocean/atmosphere phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña. The data was also used in daily applications as diverse as routing ships, improving the safety and efficiency of offshore industry operations, managing fisheries and tracking marine mammals.

Some of the areas in which TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 have made major contributions,[13] and to which OSTM/Jason-2 continued to add, are:

  • Ocean Variability

The missions revealed the surprising variability of the ocean, how much it changes from season to season, year to year, decade to decade and on even longer time scales. They ended the traditional notion of a quasi-steady, large-scale pattern of global ocean circulation by proving that the ocean is changing rapidly on all scales, from huge features such as El Nino and La Nina, which can cover the entire equatorial Pacific, to tiny eddies swirling off the large Gulf Stream in the Atlantic.

  • Sea Level Change

Measurements by TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 show that mean sea level has been rising by about three millimeters (.12 inches) a year since 1993. This is about twice the estimates from tide gauges for the previous century, indicating a possible recent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

The data record from these altimetry missions has given scientists important insights into how global sea level is affected by natural climate variability, as well as by human activities.

  • Planetary Waves

TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 made clear the importance of planetary-scale waves, such as Rossby and Kelvin waves. Thousands of kilometers wide, these waves are driven by wind under the influence of Earth's rotation and are important mechanisms for transmitting climate signals across the large ocean basins. At high latitudes, they travel twice as fast as scientists believed previously, showing the ocean responds much more quickly to climate changes than was known before these missions.

  • Ocean Tides

The precise measurements of TOPEX/Poseidon's and Jason-1 have brought knowledge of ocean tides to an unprecedented level. The change of water level due to tidal motion in the deep ocean is known everywhere on the globe to within 2.5 centimeters (one inch). This new knowledge has revised notions about how tides dissipate. Instead of losing all their energy over shallow seas near the coasts, as previously believed, about one third of tidal energy is actually lost to the deep ocean. There, the energy is consumed by mixing water of different properties, a fundamental mechanism in the physics governing the general circulation of the ocean.

  • Ocean Models

TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 observations provided the first global data for improving the performance of the numerical ocean models that are a key component of climate prediction models.

Data use and benefits

Validated data products in support of improved weather, climate and ocean forecasts were distributed to the public within a few hours of observation. Beginning in 2009, other data products for climate research were made available a few days to a few weeks after observations were taken by the satellite.

Altimetry data have a wide variety of uses from basic scientific research on climate to ship routing. Applications include:

  • Climate research: Altimetry data are incorporated into computer models to understand and predict changes in the distribution of heat in ocean, a key element of climate.
  • El Niño and La Niña forecasting: Understanding the pattern and effects of climate cycles such as El Niño helps predict and mitigate the disastrous effects of floods and drought.
Wilma oct24 11am
Altimetry reveals the ocean heat that can fuel hurricanes.
  • Tropical cyclone forecasting: Altimeter data and satellite ocean wind data are incorporated into atmospheric models for hurricane season forecasting and individual storm severity.
  • Ship routing: Maps of currents, eddies, and vector winds are used in commercial shipping and recreational yachting to optimize routes.
  • Offshore industries: Cable-laying vessels and offshore oil operations require accurate knowledge of ocean circulation patterns, to minimize impacts from strong currents.
  • Marine mammal research: Sperm whales, fur seals, and other marine mammals can be tracked, and therefore studied, around ocean eddies where nutrients and plankton are abundant.
  • Fisheries management: Satellite data identify ocean eddies which bring an increase in organisms that comprise the marine food web, attracting fish and fishermen.
  • Coral reef research: Remotely sensed data are used to monitor and assess coral reef ecosystems, which are sensitive to changes in ocean temperature.
  • Marine debris tracking: Altimetry can help locate hazardous materials such as floating and partially submerged fishing nets, timber, and ship debris.

End of mission

The OSTM/Jason-2 mission concluded on October 1, 2019, after NASA and its mission partners made the decision to decommission the spacecraft upon discovering significant recent deterioration of the spacecraft's power systems.[1] Because Jason-2 is orbiting at an altitude of over 1,300 kilometers (810 mi), NASA estimates that it will remain in orbit for at least 500 to 1,000 years after decommissioning.[14]


The fourth spacecraft to be part of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission is Jason-3. Like its predecessors, the primary instrument aboard Jason-3 is a radar altimeter. Additional instruments include:[15]

Jason-3 launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle in 2016.[16] The satellite was shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 18, 2015,[17] and after delays due to a June 2015 Falcon 9 launch failure, the mission was launched January 17, 2016 at 10:42:18 AM PST.[18][19]

The technologies and data-sets pioneered by Jason-1, OSTM/Jason-2, and Jason-3, will be continued through the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS satellites, planned for launch in 2020 and 2025.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Ocean-Monitoring Satellite Mission Ends After 11 Successful Years" (Press release). NASA. October 4, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "Ocean Surface Topography from Space". NASA/JPL.
  3. ^ "Ocean Surface Topography from Space". NASA/JPL. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "Ocean Surface Topography from Space". NASA/JPL. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008.
  5. ^ "NASA Launches Ocean Satellite to Keep a Weather, Climate Eye Open". NASA.
  6. ^ "Jason-2 successfully launched". EUMETSAT. Archived from the original on November 16, 2008.
  7. ^ "Tandem Mission Brings Ocean Currents into Sharper Focus". NASA/JPL. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009.
  8. ^ "NOAA takes over Jason-2 satellite operations". EUMETSAT. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011.
  9. ^ "T2L2 ready to put Einstein's theory to the test". CNES. November 6, 2008.
  10. ^ "(OSTM) - Jason 2 Overview". NOAA. Archived from the original on June 14, 2007.
  11. ^ "New Oceanography Mission Data Now Available". NASA/JPL.
  12. ^ "OSTM/JASON-2 SCIENCE AND OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS". EUMETSAT. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  13. ^ "The Legacy of Topex/Poseidon and Jason 1, page 30. Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 Launch Press Kit, June 2008" (PDF). NASA/JPL.
  14. ^ Foust, Jeff (October 10, 2019). "Decommissioned Earth science satellite to remain in orbit for centuries". SpaceNews. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  15. ^ "Jason-3 Missions Summary" Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  16. ^ "Jason-3 Quick Facts" National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  17. ^ Clark, Stephen (June 18, 2015). "Jason 3 satellite shipped to Vandenberg for SpaceX launch | Spaceflight Now". Spaceflight Now. Spaceflight Now Inc. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  18. ^ @NOAASatellites (December 11, 2015). "Launch date for Jason-3 announced! Launch scheduled for Jan 17, 2016 at 10:42:18am PST" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  19. ^ "Jason-3 January 17, 2016 Launch Date Announced". NOAA Satellite and Information Service. January 8, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2016.

External links

Media related to Ocean Surface Topography Mission at Wikimedia Commons

2008 in spaceflight

The year 2008 contained several significant events in spaceflight, including the first flyby of Mercury by a spacecraft since 1975, the discovery of water ice on Mars by the Phoenix spacecraft, which landed in May, the first Chinese spacewalk in September, and the launch of the first Indian Lunar probe in October.

DORIS (geodesy)

Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite or, in French, Détermination d'Orbite et Radiopositionnement Intégré par Satellite (in both case yielding the acronym DORIS) is a French satellite system used for the determination of satellite orbits (e.g. TOPEX/Poseidon) and for positioning.

Global Change Observation Mission

GCOM (Global Change Observation Mission), is a JAXA project of long-term observation of Earth environmental changes. As a part of Japan's contributions to GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), GCOM will be continued for 10 to 15 years with observation and utilization of global geophysical data such as precipitation, snow, water vapor, aerosol, for climate change prediction, water management, and food security. On May 18, 2012, the first satellite "GCOM-W1" (nickname "Shizuku") was launched. On December 23, 2017, the second satellite "GCOM-C1" (nickname "Shikisai) was launched.

Hurricane Earl (2010)

Hurricane Earl was the first major hurricane to threaten New England since Hurricane Bob in 1991. The fifth named storm of the season, Earl originated from a tropical wave to west of the Cape Verde Islands on August 25, 2010. Tracking nearly due west, the system attained tropical storm intensity within hours of genesis. After maintaining winds of 50 mph (85 km/h) for nearly two days, Earl began to strengthen as it neared the Lesser Antilles. The storm intensified into a hurricane on August 29 and later a major hurricane on August 30 as it brushed the Leeward Islands. A temporary weakening trend took place as Earl moved northwestward, contributed to moderate southwesterly wind shear, but intensification later resumed by September 1. Once reorganized, Earl reached its peak winds of 145 mph (230 km/h). Executing a gradual curve to the northeast, the hurricane slowly weakened over decreasing sea surface temperatures; the storm's center passed roughly 85 mi (140 km) east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on September 3. Accelerating northeastward, the system briefly weakened to a tropical storm before reattaining hurricane strength as it made landfall near Western Head, Nova Scotia. After traversing the peninsula, the hurricane became extratropical and was later absorbed by a larger low pressure area on September 6, while located north of Newfoundland.

In the Lesser Antilles, the storm brought strong winds, damaging houses and toppling trees, signs, and power lines, resulting in hundreds of thousands of electrical outages. Heavy rainfall led to flooding, inundating streets and leaving waist-deep water on some islands. One death occurred in Antigua and Barbuda when a person was electrocuted while attempting to restore power. The region was inflicted with at least $40.8 million (2010 USD) in damage. Along the coast of the Eastern United States, tropical storm-force winds affected portions of North Carolina and Massachusetts; however, little damage resulted, totaling about $3.8 million in the Outer Banks. Six fatalities were confirmed in the United States as a result of rip currents and rough seas; three in Florida, two in New Jersey and one in Massachusetts. In Nova Scotia, Canada, where Earl made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, one person drowned and hundreds of thousands of people lost power for days.


Jason-1 was a satellite oceanography mission to monitor global ocean circulation, study the ties between the ocean and the atmosphere, improve global climate forecasts and predictions, and monitor events such as El Niño and ocean eddies.


Jason-3 is a satellite created by a partnership of the European Organisation for the Exploration of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), and is an international cooperative mission in which NOAA is partnering with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES, France's governmental space agency). The satellites' mission is to supply data for scientific, commercial, and practical applications to sea level rise, sea surface temperature, ocean temperature circulation, and climate change.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States, though it is often referred to as residing in Pasadena, California because it has a Pasadena ZIP Code.

Founded in the 1930s, the JPL is currently owned by NASA and managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for NASA. The laboratory's primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA's Deep Space Network.

Among the laboratory's major active projects are the Mars Science Laboratory mission (which includes the Curiosity rover), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, the SMAP satellite for earth surface soil moisture monitoring, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. It is also responsible for managing the JPL Small-Body Database, and provides physical data and lists of publications for all known small Solar System bodies.

The JPL's Space Flight Operations Facility and Twenty-Five-Foot Space Simulator are designated National Historic Landmarks.

Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984

The Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984 is a United States statute establishing a system to further the utilization of satellite imagery data obtained from Earth observation satellites located in a geocentric orbit above the atmosphere of Earth.

The H.R. 5155 legislation was passed by the 98th U.S. Congressional session and enacted into law by the 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan on July 17, 1984.

Landsat program

The Landsat program is the longest-running enterprise for acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. On July 23, 1972 the Earth Resources Technology Satellite was launched. This was eventually renamed to Landsat. The most recent, Landsat 8, was launched on February 11, 2013. The instruments on the Landsat satellites have acquired millions of images. The images, archived in the United States and at Landsat receiving stations around the world, are a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education, and can be viewed through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 'EarthExplorer' website. Landsat 7 data has eight spectral bands with spatial resolutions ranging from 15 to 60 meters (49 to 197 ft); the temporal resolution is 16 days. Landsat images are usually divided into scenes for easy downloading. Each Landsat scene is about 115 miles long and 115 miles wide (or 100 nautical miles long and 100 nautical miles wide, or 185 kilometers long and 185 kilometers wide).

List of Launch Services Program launches

The launch history of NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP) since the program formed in 1998 at Kennedy Space Center. The unmanned launches of NASA robotic missions occurred from a number of launch sites on a variety of rockets. After the list of launches are descriptions of select historic LSP missions.

List of NASA missions

This is a list of NASA missions, both crewed and robotic, since its establishment 1958.

Ocean surface topography

Ocean surface topography or sea surface topography, also called ocean dynamic topography, are highs and lows on the ocean surface, similar to the hills and valleys of Earth's land surface depicted on a topographic map.

These variations are expressed in terms of average sea surface height (SSH) relative to the Earth's geoid.

The main purpose of measuring ocean surface topography is to understand the large-scale ocean circulation.

Orbital meteorological and remote sensing systems
Ocean zones
Sea level


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.