In the Spotlight

SWOT: Thales Alenia Space will provide the Poseidon-3C radar altimeter

In the Spotlight

SWOT: Thales Alenia Space will provide the Poseidon-3C radar altimeter

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    On September 29th, 2015, Thales Alenia Space signed a contract with French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) covering the design and development phase for the Poseidon-3C radar altimeter on the SWOT oceanography satellite.

    About SWOT

    SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) is an oceanography program that will demonstrate new applications, and is a follow-on to the Jason-1, 2 and 3 operational missions. It will incorporate unprecedented technological innovations in altimetry. Thales Alenia Space was selected by French space agency CNES in January 2015 to manufacture the satellite.

    About the Poseidon-3C instrument

    The contract signed on September 2015 covers the supply of a nadir altimeter (for vertical measurement), along with the brand-new main instrument, the KaRIn (Ka-band Radar Interferometer) wide-swath altimeter. The Poseidon-3C instrument will integrate the latest improvements from the Poseidon 3B instrument, already mounted in the Jason-3 satellite, to be launched shortly by a Falcon rocket.

    Regarding Poseidon-3C radar altimeter, Marc Pircher, Director of CNES Toulouse Space Centre, said:

    “I am really pleased with the signature of this new contract between CNES and Thales Alenia Space, one of our historical partners. The SWOT mission will enable us to acquire more accurate data with an even higher resolution thanks to its new generation of instruments. SWOT will become, from its orbit, a new tool for monitoring the environment and the effects of global warming”.

    Marc Pircher (CNES) & Hervé Hamy (Thales Alenia Space) © Pierre Jalby

    Thales Alenia Space's space altimetry line

    The uninterrupted harvest of measurements started back in 1992 with the Poseidon-1 instrument (on Topex-Poseidon), then continued with the unprecedented success of Jason 1 (over 10 years of service life for an expected lifetime of 3 years) and its successors, Jason 2, operational in orbit, and Jason 3, to be launched in the coming months. With this enviable track record, Thales Alenia Space's space altimetry line is a clear success story, one that has achieved global renown. Since the Topex/Poseidon mission, Thales Alenia Space has realized a total of 12 more-and-more accurate altimeters.

    Concrete applications

    Today, space altimetry is indispensable for getting a close-up view of ocean dynamics, and better understanding our climate. Earth is of course an immense span of water, with oceans covering 71% of its surface.
    The oceans transport heat and matter, exchanging them with the atmosphere, which is why they are partially responsible for regulating our planet's climate. Oceans are also "users", and the currents, whirlpools, wave heights, etc. provide critical data for many purposes.
    There are many reasons to observe our oceans, including predicting climate change, sailing more efficiently, better managing our fishing resources, ensuring the security of offshore constructions, more accurately forecasting the weather, etc. And in all of these areas, altimetry is an unrivaled means of investigation.
    The community of operational oceanography users – Mercator, Ifremer, CLS, etc. – is impatiently awaiting the SWOT satellite, which will offer a wider swath for observation, and also be able to survey coastal zones.

    Thales Alenia Space and oceanography

    In the field of oceanography, Thales Alenia Space will have built:

    • Poseidon altimeters on the Topex-Poseidon, Jason 1, 2 and 3 missions for CNES.
    • The AltiKa Ka-band altimeter for Saral, a Franco-Indian oceanographic satellite.
    • Siral 2, an SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) interferometry type very-high-resolution altimeter, carried on ESA's CryoSat-2 satellite, capable of measuring changes in the thickness of sea ice, and also the mass budget of land ice, to an unprecedented degree of precision.
    • SRAL SAR altimeters on Sentinel-3.
    • Two "water color" multispectral optical instruments, Meris (on Envisat) and OLCI, on Sentinel-3.
    • Poseidon-4 radar altimeter on Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission
    • Poseidon-3C radar altimeter on SWOT

    To read the press release related to the Poseidon-3C contract, please click here.