NASA has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for the agency’s April 2021 mission designed to make the first-ever global survey of Earths surface water. The mission is likely to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The total cost for NASA to launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission is approximately $112 million, which includes the launch service; spacecraft processing; payload integration; and tracking, data and telemetry support, the US space agency said.
Designed to make the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water, in addition to high-resolution ocean measurements, the SWOT mission will collect detailed measurements of how water bodies on Earth change over time.
The satellite will survey at least 90 per cent of the globe, studying Earth’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans, at least twice every 21 days, aid in freshwater management around the world, to improve ocean circulation models and weather and climate predictions.
The SWOT spacecraft will be jointly developed and managed by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).
NASA said its launch services programme at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service.
SpaceX currently has nine NASA missions on its planned launch manifest for upcoming contracts, but it still hasn’t provided a definite date for resuming launches following the explosion of a SpaceX rocket during pre-flight checks on a launch pad in September, Techcrunch.com reported.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded on September 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida during a pre-launch test, destroying the rocket itself and a $200-million communications satellite that was set to play a key role in Facebook’s plans to provide internet access to remote villages in Africa. No one was injured in the explosion.
In a series of tweets in September, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk termed the launch pad accident as the “the most difficult and complex failure” in the company’s 14-year history.