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For the world’s oceanographers, the Jason series of altimetry satellites is simply a vital resource. TOPEX/Poseidon launched in 1992, Jason-1 in 2001 and then Jason-2 in 2008 have revealed that the global sea level is rising at an average rate of 3 mm per year. They have also helped scientists to better understand the vast system of deep and surface ocean currents. Today, they have become a benchmark for other altimetry satellites like SARAL, CryoSat, HY-2A and SWOT, and their operational applications are burgeoning.
Jason-3 assures vital continuity of the ocean data record in the current context of global warming until at least 2020, while also developing operational services. Like its predecessors, it operates in a highly inclined 1,336-km orbit from which it covers 95% of the globe’s ice-free oceans every 10 days. Its instruments are installed on a Proteus spacecraft bus supplied by CNES. In 2020 and 2026, two new Jason satellites—Jason-CS-A/Sentinel-6A and Jason-CS-B/Sentinel-6B—will join it in the same orbit.