Flight Readiness Review Complete, SWOT Satellite Secured in Payload Fairing

Inside the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, a technician assists as a crane lowers the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite onto the payload adapter on Dec. 5, 2022. SWOT is scheduled to lift off aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg on Dec. 15, 2022, at 3:46 a.m. PST.
Inside the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, a technician assists as a crane lowers the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite onto the payload adapter on Dec. 5, 2022. SWOT is scheduled to lift off aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg on Dec. 15, 2022, at 3:46 a.m. PST. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Steven Gerl

NASA, SpaceX, and Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) launch managers met today, Dec. 9, to conduct a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. During the FRR, teams provided an update on the mission status, closed out actions from previous readiness reviews, and certified the readiness to initiate final launch preparation activities.

A collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency, SWOT will be the first satellite to survey nearly all water on the Earth’s surface. Its instruments will observe the ocean’s surface topography in fine detail, as well as measure how bodies of water change over time.

Encapsulated inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing, SWOT is now ready for its next major milestone. Over the next couple of days, technicians will horizontally integrate the encapsulated satellite to the Falcon 9.

Liftoff is scheduled for 3:46 a.m. PST on Thursday, Dec. 15, from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-4 East. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch service.

Water-Tracking SWOT Satellite Encapsulated in Rocket Payload Fairing

Inside the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, both halves of the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing are moved to enclose the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite on Dec. 8, 2022. A collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency and the UK Space Agency, SWOT will be the first satellite to survey nearly all water on Earth’s surface. SWOT is scheduled to lift off aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg on Dec. 15, 2022, at 3:46 a.m. PST.
Inside the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, both halves of the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing are moved to enclose the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite on Dec. 8, 2022. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Joshua Duffy

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The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission is now encapsulated in its payload fairing in preparation for launch. Technicians at the SpaceX processing facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California completed the operation and will soon mate the fairing to the top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The fairing protects the satellite from aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent. After the rocket escapes the Earth’s atmosphere, the fairing separates into two halves, which are jettisoned back to Earth.

Once in orbit, SWOT will measure the height of water in freshwater bodies and the ocean on more than 90% of Earth’s surface. This information will provide insights into how the ocean influences climate change; how a warming world affects lakes, rivers, and reservoirs; and how communities can better prepare for disasters, such as floods.

SWOT is a collaborative effort by NASA and Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and UK Space Agency.

Launch is targeted for Dec. 15 at 3:46 a.m. PST from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg.

NASA’s Surface Water Satellite to Launch Thursday, Dec. 15

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft is moved into a transport container inside the Astrotech facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Nov. 18, 2022. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Chris Okula

NASA, the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales, and SpaceX are now targeting 3:46 a.m. PST Thursday, Dec.15, for the launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. The new date allows for additional time to complete prelaunch processing and checkouts of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

SWOT will be NASA’s first global survey of nearly all water on Earth’s surface. Scientists plan to use its observations to better understand the global water cycle, furnish insight into the ocean’s role in how climate change unfolds, and provide a global inventory of water resources.

The SWOT mission is a collaborative effort between NASA and the French space agency with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

SWOT will launch from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

International SWOT Mission Now Targeting Dec. 12 Launch

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite is loaded into a container in Cannes, France, in preparation for its transportation to the United States.
Workers in a clean room in Cannes, France, load the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite into a container in preparation for shipping the spacecraft to the U.S. Photo credit: CNES/Thales Alenia Space

NASA, the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), and SpaceX are now targeting Monday, Dec. 12, for the launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch SWOT from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

After considering the schedule for completion of the satellite build, transportation of the SWOT spacecraft from France to Vandenberg , and carrying out the remaining launch campaign tasks, the team determined that additional time was needed to conduct these activities and ready the satellite for launch.

SWOT is the first satellite mission that will survey nearly all water on Earth’s surface. Its instruments will measure the height of water in the planet’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and the ocean in higher definition than ever before. This will help to inform water equity and water management decisions, provide new insights into Earth’s water and energy cycle, and help prepare communities for rising seas and changing coastlines in a warming climate.

Satellite to Study Earth’s Water Arrives at Launch Site

Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite at Vandenberg Space Force Base
NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite arrives from France aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Oct. 16, 2022. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Carlos Vela

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite arrived at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, where teams will begin final preparations for the spacecraft’s launch in December on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Center-4 East.

SWOT is the first satellite mission that will observe nearly all water on Earth’s surface, measuring the height of water in the planet’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and the ocean. SWOT’s instruments will be able to resolve ocean features like currents and eddies less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) across, lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres (6 hectares), and rivers wider than 330 feet (100 meters) across.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California built the scientific payload. In June 2021, JPL shipped the payload to France, where a multinational team integrated the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) and other finely tuned instruments with the satellite bus.

On Oct. 16, SWOT arrived at Vandenberg from France aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft and moved to the Astrotech Space Operations facility to begin launch processing. In the coming weeks, SWOT will undergo many steps in preparation for liftoff. Teams must encapsulate the satellite in a protective payload fairing, mate it to the rocket, and transport it to the launch pad before it’s ready to launch into space.

Once in orbit, SWOT will collect data from the ocean, helping researchers better understand how seawater absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon, a process that affects global temperatures and climate change. This data will also help researchers better understand coastal sea levels and, ultimately, how sea surface height will interact with a changing climate to affect things like storm surges.

SWOT will also provide the first comprehensive global survey of freshwater lakes, rivers, and reservoirs from space. The satellite will measure the height of the water in these water bodies, as well as their surface area, or extent. By helping track changes in water volume over time, the data will better equip scientists and water resource managers to monitor how much water flows into and out of Earth’s freshwater bodies.

SWOT is a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatial (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch service.

SWOT Mission Now Targeting Dec. 5

Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. Photo credit: CNES/Thales Alenia Space

NASA, the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), and SpaceX are now targeting Monday, Dec. 5, for the launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, satellite. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch SWOT from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The SWOT project team determined a shift of the launch date was needed in order to complete all the necessary tasks in the lead-up to launch, including transporting the satellite from Cannes, France, to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

SWOT is the first satellite mission that will survey nearly all water on Earth. Viewing Earth’s water in higher definition than ever before will inform water equity and water management decisions, provide new insights into Earth’s water and energy cycle, and help prepare communities for rising seas and changing coastlines in a warming climate.