The French space agency, CNES, has contracted with ThalesAlenia Space to build the U.S.-European Jason-3 ocean-altimetry satellite, a contract that the manufacturer announced Feb. 24 will permit the spacecraft to be launched by a U.S.-provided rocket in July 2013.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and several European organizations led by CNES and Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite agency have agreed to finance the construction and launch of Jason-3, and at least three years of in-orbit operations. The program’s budget is estimated at 252 million euros ($341.4 million).

The CNES contract with ThalesAlenia Space followed the early February approval by Eumetsat governments of the funding needed to trigger the construction contract.

Jason-3 will use the same CNES-provided Proteus satellite platform as Jason-2. ThalesAlenia Space will be responsible for providing the Poseidon 3B altimeter, integrating the satellite’s payload onto the Proteus platform, testing the satellite and assisting with launch preparations.

NOAA will contribute to Jason-3’s payload and will also be responsible for the launch of the 553-kilogram Jason-3 into a 1,336-kilometer orbit inclined at 66 degrees relative to the equator. A launch in mid-2013 should permit Jason-3 to operate in tandem with Jason-2 satellite, which was launched in June 2008.