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.