The joint NASA/French Space Agency oceanography satellite Jason 1 successfully rode a Delta II rocket into orbit from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2W at 7:07:36 a.m. PST today.

Jason 1 will join its orbiting cousin, the venerable Topex/Poseidon satellite, to continue observations of the global climate interaction occurring between the sea and the atmosphere as a result of stored solar energy. Instruments on the satellite will map variations in ocean surface topography to monitor world ocean circulation, study interactions of the oceans and atmosphere, improve climate predictions and observe events like El Nino. The mission is expected to last three years.

At 55 minutes, 20 seconds into the mission -- or 8:02 a.m. PST -- the Jason 1 spacecraft separated from the Delta's second stage. Following separation, Jason's twin sets of solar arrays were unfolded and the satellite began its rotation toward the Sun. Ground controllers successfully acquired the spacecraft's signal from the Poker Flats, Alaska, tracking station at 8:41 a.m. PST. Initial telemetry reports received by the Jason team show the spacecraft to be in excellent health.

The French Space Agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), will handle satellite control and operations through the spacecraft's on-orbit checkout phase, expected to last approximately 30 to 50 days. The Toulouse Space Centre in Toulouse, France, is in charge of these operations. Routine operations will then transfer to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Additional information is available on the Internet at: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov , the JPL home page at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov .

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the U.S. portion of the mission for NASA's Office of Earth Science, Washington, D.C.

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