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How does Toppy the satellite measure the oceans?

Toppy's tummy is actually a radar. 100 times a second, it sends a radar pulse to the ocean below it.

TOPEX sending radar pulse

Like a mirror, the ocean will reflect the radar beam back to Toppy the satellite. Since the radar beam travels as fast as the speed of light, the amount of time that is takes the radar beam to get back, tells Toppy the satellite the height of the oceans.

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Last Modified: Mon Mar 1, 1999
CSR/TSGC Team Web