Watch the SWOT Satellite Unfold Itself in Space

The SWOT satellite.

This illustration shows the SWOT spacecraft with its antenna mast and solar arrays fully deployed. (Image: JPL-Caltech via NASA)

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite launched into Earth orbit on Friday, December 16, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California, and engineers are working to prepare the mission to begin measuring the height of water on over 90 percent of Earth’s surface, providing a high-definition survey of our planet’s water for the first time.

The SWOT satellite unfolds its solar panels

But before it can do that, the satellite would need to unfold its large mast and antenna panels (see above) after successfully deploying the solar panel arrays that power the spacecraft. The mission monitors and controls the satellite using telemetry data, but it also equips the spacecraft with four customized commercial cameras to record the action. The solar arrays were fully deployed shortly after launch, taking about 10 minutes.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

The antennas were successfully deployed over four days, a process completed on December 22. The two cameras focused on the KaRIn antennas captured the mast extending out from the spacecraft and locking in place, but stopped short of capturing the antennas being fully deployed (a milestone the team confirmed with telemetry data.)

Thirty-three feet (10 meters) apart, at either end of the mast, the two antennas belong to the groundbreaking Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument. Designed to capture precise measurements of the height of water in Earth’s freshwater bodies and the ocean, KaRIn will see eddies, currents, and other ocean features less than 13 miles (20 kilometers) across.

It will also collect data on lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres (62,500 square meters) and rivers wider than 330 feet (100 meters) across. KaRIn will do this by bouncing radar pulses off the surface of the water on Earth and receiving the signals with both antennas, collecting data along a swath that’s 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide on either side of the satellite.

The data SWOT will help researchers and decision-makers address some of our most pressing climate questions and help communities prepare for a warming world.

Provided by Jet Propulsion Laboratory [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

A girl reading a book.

Why Reading to Children Is Important

Reading to children isn’t just a pastime or a spontaneous activity. It has many benefits ...

Shattering your fears.

6 Tips to Conquer Your Fears the Healthy Way

Fear is a normal reaction that helps people avoid dangerous situations or encounters. In instances ...

Flags of Australia, Canada, the U.S., the UK, and New Zealand with the image of an eye on them to symbolize the Five Eyes alliance.

The Highly Secretive Five Eyes Alliance Has Disrupted a China-Backed Hacker Group

This week the Five Eyes alliance — an intelligence alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, ...

Melbourne, Australia.

Dependence on China: Australia at Most Risk Among Five Eyes

A study by London-based think tank the Henry Jackson Society has found that among all ...

Takaharu Tezuka-style kindergarten.

Combining Japanese Ingenuity With Kindergarten Design

A Japanese architect named Takaharu Tezuka wanted a kindergarten that kids would love. So he ...

Parents outside a Chinese kindergarten.

Chinese Media Ordered to Stop Reporting on Kindergarten Abuse

The Chinese government has ordered local media to halt coverage of a kindergarten abuse scandal ...

Giant trolls.

Thomas Dambo: The Artist Who Creates Giant Trolls Out of Trash

Thomas Dambo from Denmark has created something unique for the people of Copenhagen to enjoy ...

The Amazon rainforest.

Study Finds African Smoke Is Fertilizing Amazon Rainforest and Oceans

A new study led by researchers at the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of ...

A dead humpback whale.

Scientists Surprised at Finding a Dead Whale in the Amazon Rainforest

When thinking of whales, you would probably picture these majestic creatures in the oceans, surging ...

Send this to a friend