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OSTM/Jason-2 satellite launch.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
A new satellite designed to monitor changes in the sea level and help measure the strength of tropical cyclones, launched early Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Jason-2/Ocean Surface Topography Mission lifted off on June 20 at 12:46 a.m. PDT and climbed into space atop a Delta II rocket.
Ground controllers successfully acquired the spacecraft's signals. Initial telemetry reports show the satellite is in excellent shape, according to launch officials. OSTM/Jason-2 entered orbit about six to nine miles below the Jason-1 satellite, a predecessor mission. The new spacecraft will gradually use its thrusters to raise itself into the same 830-mile orbital altitude as Jason-1 and position itself to follow Jason-1's ground track, orbiting 60 seconds behind it. The two satellites will fly in formation, making nearly simultaneous measurements for about six months, allowing scientists to precisely calibrate OSTM/Jason-2's instruments.
The OSTM/Jason-2 mission is a joint, international effort between NOAA, NASA France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The mission will extend the climate data record by providing a long-term survey of Earth's oceans, tracking ocean circulation patterns, measuring sea-surface heights and the rate of sea-level rise.
NOAA will use the altimeter measurements to help predict short-term severe weather events, including tropical storms and hurricanes, and monitor ocean conditions that trigger changes in the strength of these storms as they move toward land.
NOAA will work with CNES to handle the complete ground system support, which includes commanding all the satellite's maneuvers, downloading all the data the satellite captures and distributing the information to weather and climate forecasters, who are monitoring ocean-born storms and phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina.