France, U.S. Space Agencies Agree on Satellite Observation Program
On May 2, the French and U.S. space agencies concluded an agreement to jointly build, launch, and maintain a satellite that will collect data for a comprehensive map of the waters on the Earth’s surface.
The project, known as the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, received formal commitment from France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and NASA during a ceremony at NASA headquarters in Washington.
- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, and Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall (photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, described SWOT as "a very ambitious program set to deliver key new insights into our environment."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called the project one of several "new ways to observe and understand our changing climate and water resources." He also said that "With the mission, NASA builds on a legacy of Earth science research and our strong relationship with CNES."
The agreement concludes exploratory plans first started in 2009. Other cooperation between the French and U.S. space agencies includes the presence of French instruments aboard the Curiosity, a vehicle currently exploring the surface of Mars, as well as partnerships in the launch of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite and the series of Jason satellite missions begun in 1992.
Altogether, CNES and NASA have worked in cooperation for over 50 years.
The SWOT effort will also highlight the benefits of French space excellence on two fronts: altimetry—the study of changes in altitude and elevation—and climate change research. Altimetry can be used for
monitoring rising water levels among the Earth’s oceans, rivers, and lakes.
The climate change research enabled by SWOT underscores the high priority France has placed on the forthcoming COP21 environmental conference, organized by the United Nations and slated to take place
in Paris in 2015.
CNES and NASA plan to complete SWOT preliminary design activities in 2016 and launch in 2020.
- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, and Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall - (photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)