TOPEX/POSEIDON mission overview
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
Copyright 1994 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (1978–2012)
Volume 99, Issue C12, pages 24369–24381, 15 December 1994
How to Cite
1994), TOPEX/POSEIDON mission overview, J. Geophys. Res., 99(C12), 24369–24381, doi:10.1029/94JC01761., , , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 1 JUL 1994
- Manuscript Received: 19 NOV 1993
TOPEX/POSEIDON is the first space mission specifically designed and conducted for studying the circulation of the world's oceans. The mission is jointly conducted by the United States and France. A state-of-the-art radar altimetry system is used to measure the precise height of sea level, from which information on the ocean circulation is obtained. The satellite, launched on August 10, 1992, has been making observations of the global oceans with unprecedented accuracy since late September 1992. To meet the stringent measurement accuracy required for ocean circulation studies, a number of innovative improvements have been made to the mission design, including the first dual-frequency space-borne radar altimeter capable of retrieving the ionospheric delay of the radar signal, a three-frequency microwave radiometer for retrieving the signal delay caused by the water vapor in the troposphere, an optimal model of the Earth's gravity field and multiple satellite tracking systems for precision orbit determination. Additionally, the satellite also carries two experimental instruments to demonstrate new technologies: a single-frequency solid-state altimeter for the technology of low-power, low-weight altimeter and a Global Positioning System receiver for continuous, precise satellite tracking. The performance of the mission's measurement system has been tested by numerous verification studies. The results indicate that the root-sum-square accuracy of a single-pass sea level measurement is 4.7 cm for the TOPEX system and 5.1 cm for the POSEIDON system; both are more than a factor of 2 better than the requirement of 13.7 cm. This global data set is being analyzed by an international team of 200 scientists for improved understanding of the global ocean circulation as well as the ocean tides, geodesy, and geodynamics, and ocean wind and waves. The mission is designed to last for at least 3 years with a possible extension to 6 years. The multiyear global data set will go a long way toward understanding the ocean circulation and its variability in relation to climate change. A summary of the mission's systems and their performance as well as the mission's science team is presented in the paper.