The concept of using a spaceborne radar altimeter to measure ocean topography was formulated in the late 1960s. The concept was first demonstrated by Seasat (1978), followed by the U.S. Navy's Geosat (1985-89).
In 1979, NASA and JPL began planning TOPEX, an experiment that would use a satellite altimeter to measure the height of the world's oceans. At the same time CNES was designing a similar oceanographic mission called Poseidon. In the early 1980s, they pooled their resources to form the Joint US/France TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P) Mission (1992-2006). The follow-on mission, Jason-1, was launched in 2001. The next in the series, The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on Jason-2 (OSTM/Jason-2), was launched in 2008.
NASA and CNES shared the development, construction, and operation of Jason-1. New partners, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Meteorologic Satellite organization (Eumetsat), have joined the effort on OSTM/Jason-2.
NASA and CNES process and distribute data to over 400 scientists from nearly 30 nations.