The company SpaceX had been selected to launch the mission SWOT designed in collaboration with the French CNES (National Center for Space Studies) and the American NASA.
SWOT (Surface Water Ocean Topography) is a 2 ton, 16 meter wide satellite that will observe the Earth’s surface from 890 kilometers above sea level. Its role will be to measure the amount of water on the surface of the earth with unparalleled precision thanks to its KarIn instrumenta high-precision radar interferometer.
Valuable data on water dynamics
The measurements from the satellite will make it possible to measure the water levels with an accuracy of the order of a few centimetres. It will thus be possible to observe the movements of the oceans as well as to collect precise data on continental hydrology by monitoring rivers, lakes and other waterways.
This will make it possible to determine the flows and available water reserves as well as their evolution over time.
The SWOT control station in Toulouse (Credit: CNES)
The measurement technique is expected to be far more accurate and reliable than more ground-based installations, while covering large areas. Two radar antennas separated by 10 meters will produce measurements with a small offset, which will guarantee better quality of the data collected, with a resolution that is ten times more precise than the techniques currently used.
SWOT placed in orbit by SpaceX
Events that produce only small variations in water level, such as coastal currents, will not escape the wisdom of SWOT and will allow a better understanding of the energy exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere.
The satellite will also be able to explore the heights of lakes and rivers on the continents to generate data that will help to better understand the impact of climate change.
The launch, entrusted to SpaceX using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, went as planned this Friday, December 16, 2022 from the base in Vandenberg, California.
The first stage has returned to land on Earth, while the payload has separated and is on its way to rejoining its orbit. The CNES and NASA teams will now have to wake up the SWOT satellite, check that it is working properly and start collecting data.