Artist's concept of the U.S./European Jason-3 spacecraft over the California coast.
Jason-3 is the fourth mission in U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the height of the ocean surface. Scheduled to launch in 2015, the mission will extend the time series of ocean surface topography measurements (the hills and valleys of the ocean surface) begun by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission in 1992 and continuing through the currently operating Jason-1 (launched in 2001) and OSTM/Jason-2 (launched in 2008) missions. These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world.
The primary instrument on Jason-3 is a radar altimeter. The altimeter will measure sea-level variations over the global ocean with very high accuracy (as 1.3 inches or 3.3 centimeters, with a goal of achieving 1 inch or 2.5 centimeters). Continual, long-term, reliable data of changes in ocean surface topography will be generated and will be used by scientists and operational agencies (NOAA, European weather agencies, marine operators, etc.) for scientific research and operational oceanography for the benefit of society.
For more information on Jason-3, visit: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/jason3/.