SpaceX launches NASA's Surface Water and Ocean Topography spacecraft

SpaceX launches NASA's Surface Water and Ocean Topography spacecraft

Today, December 16, SpaceX launched NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft to orbit. The mission is a collaboration between the United States’ NASA, France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales, the Canada Space Agency, and the United Kingdom Space Agency. The SWOT satellite is designed to survey Earth’s oceans and lakes to detect the effects of climate change and its impact on the environment. With the data collected, the international group of scientists also hope to make Earth a better place by thinking of innovative ways to manage our planet’s freshwater budget. Water is a finite precious resource.  “Warming seas, extreme weather, more severe wildfires – these are only some of the consequences humanity is facing due to climate change,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The climate crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and SWOT is the realization of a long-standing international partnership that will ultimately better equip communities so that they can face these challenges."

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 3:46 a.m. PT from Space Launch Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying. SWOT to orbit. The rocket’s first-stage booster supporting this mission is identified as B1071-6; It previously launched five missions, including: the National Reconnaissance Office NROL-87 mission and NROL-85 mission, the SARah-1 mission, and two Starlink missions. The SWOT spacecraft  deployment was the booster’s sixth flight.



Approximately eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX recovered the booster by landing it at the Space Force Base’s Landing Zone 4. It marked SpaceX’s 156th landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 130th time it reused a previously-flown booster. 



The SWOT satellite was deployed to orbit around 52-minutes after liftoff. It was launched to a non-sun-synchronous orbit with a final altitude 857 kilometers above Earth. –“What a spectacular launch! Welcome to the era of SWOT!” said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, NASA’s director of ocean physics. The SWOT satellite is capable of monitoring and collecting 3D volumetric data across more than 90% of Earth’s oceans, lakes, and rivers every 21 days; sending back one terabyte of unprocessed data per day.



"After SWOT separated from the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ground controllers successfully acquired the satellite’s signal. Initial telemetry reports showed the spacecraft in good health. SWOT will now undergo a series of checks and calibrations before it starts collecting science data in about six months,” shared NASA representatives at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The primary instrument of the SWOT satellite is the Ka-band radar interferometer (KaRIn), which is designed to bounce “radar pulses off the water’s surface and receive the return signal using two antennas on either side of the spacecraft.” This enables engineers to receive precise measurement of the height of the water’s surface across two 50-kilometers-wide areas. “We’re eager to see SWOT in action,” said Karen St. Germain, NASA Earth Science Division director. “This satellite embodies how we are improving life on Earth through science and technological innovations. The data that innovation will provide is essential to better understanding how Earth’s air, water, and ecosystems interact – and how people can thrive on our changing planet.”

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 Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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