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NASA takes control of new oceanography spacecraft

Jason 1’s oceanography mission to monitor global climate interactions between the sea and atmosphere reached another major milestone this past week with the successful handover of day-to-day operations from the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

With the handover, JPL is now responsible for around-the-clock real-time monitoring of Jason 1’s health and status, and for generating and uploading weekly stored command sequences to the spacecraft. These sequences contain data for mission planning, payload commanding, navigation, ground station acquisition and routine maintenance functions.

The French Space Agency’s Satellite Control Centre in Toulouse, France, will continue to perform spacecraft engineering and navigation tasks. Both organizations will be jointly responsible for processing mission science data.

Much like its Topex/Poseidon predecessor, the Jason program’s shared operations management approach is designed to maximize efficiencies and make the most of the two space agencies’ differing program roles and expertise. The French Space Agency managed Jason 1 satellite development, engineering and delivery from the French aerospace company Alcatel, so the program’s early post-launch checkout phases were conducted by the French. NASA, by contrast, is responsible for two of the mission’s three ground tracking stations in Wallops Island, Va., and Poker Flats, Alaska, (the other is in Aussaguel, France), so JPL has responsibility for oversight of day-to-day routine mission operations.

During the next six months, Jason science data will be distributed to the mission’s science team, and work will begin to conduct a precise scientific assessment of product quality through cross-calibration of Jason products with those of Topex/Poseidon. A science working team meeting will be conducted at the end of this six-month validation phase in October to verify that Jason data are accurate, correctly calculated and meeting program requirements. Science data products will then become available to the public.