Montage of our solar system

A German scientific satellite launched this week carries an instrument designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Officials report that the Challenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) and its instruments are working well five days after the successful launch. CHAMP was one of three European satellites launched from Plesetsk in northern Russia on July 15. It is on a five-year mission for geophysical and atmospheric studies.

Under a 1997 memorandum of understanding between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), JPL contributed an instrument, a "BlackJack" Global Positioning System (GPS) flight receiver, that will be used in several ways. GPS data from the instrument's upward pointed antenna will be used to determine the satellite's orbit precisely in order to improve our knowledge of Earth's gravity field. Data from a second antenna pointed to Earth's horizon will be used to make precise measurements of atmospheric temperature, pressure and moisture for studies of climate change. Finally, GPS data from a third antenna pointed straight down will allow scientists to test the possibility of using reflected GPS data to acquire information about ocean height and sea-surface winds.

CHAMP is managed by the GeoForschungsZentrum (Earth Research Center) of Potsdam, Germany. NASA is one of three international partners on the mission. The others are the Centre National des tudes Spatiales (CNES), France, and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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