JPL delivers SWOT payload

(30 Jun 2021) The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from NASA in California has delivered the payload for the SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) oceanography satellite to Thales Alenia Space's plant in Cannes, southern France. Thales Alenia Space is industrial prime contractor for this programme on behalf of French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).

SWOT is a joint mission between CNES and NASA, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA). As its name indicates, it will measure the surface level in lakes and waterways, river flow rates and also study ocean dynamics to a very high degree of precision.

SWOT carries on a long-standing partnership between CNES and NASA, with Thales Alenia Space as industrial partner, starting with the 1992 launch of Topex-Poseidon and continuing with the Jason family. SWOT will be the first satellite to make a controlled atmospheric reentry, in compliance with the French Law on Space Operations to deal with the problem of space debris, a law which took effect definitively in 2020.

Designed to study the topography of oceans and bodies of water on land, SWOT has a two-pronged mission covering oceanography and hydrology. The satellite will monitor ocean circulation using its 2D vision and resolution improved 10-fold. The hydrology part of the mission will assess changes in water storage in wetlands, lakes and reservoirs, as well as river flow rates.

The SWOT payload comprises two subassemblies, KaRIn (Ka-band Radar Interferometer), supplied by JPL, and NADIR, a Jason-class altimeter. Thales Alenia Space supplied the radio-frequency unit (RFU), a key part of the KaRIn instrument, and the dual-frequency Poseidon altimeter for NADIR. The payload was integrated by JPL in Pasadena, California and will be assembled on the SWOT spacecraft bus at Thales Alenia Space's plant in Cannes in early August. Integration and testing will continue for a year in France, with French and U.S. teams handling these tasks.

Launch by a SpaceX Falcon 9 is slated for the end of 2022. This demonstration mission will last about three years.

Reference: Thales Alenia Space PR

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