SWOT Mission

The SWOT mission is a ground-breaking future satellite mission that will provide the first global survey of Earth’s surface water, observe fine details of the ocean’s surface topography, and measure how water bodies change over time. Scheduled for launch in September 2021, SWOT will be a powerhouse for monitoring Earth’s surface water inventory, ocean dynamics, and long-term environmental change.

SWOT will use pioneering wide-swath radar interferometry to retreive 2D maps of water elevation with a spatial resolution more than 10 times that of current satellites. For the first time, SWOT will enable monitoring of major lakes, wetlands, and rivers on land, and submesoscale eddies and currents (30-100 km) in the ocean, providing critical information on sea level change, freshwater resources, and upper ocean dynamics.

SWOT is being jointly developed by NASA and CNES with contributions from researchers around the world, including Australia. The Australian government and the Integrated Marine Observing System (imos.org.au) are investing in SWOT through a calibration/validation campaign at the Bass Strait altimeter validation site (led by Chris Watson, UTas and Benoit Legresy, CSIRO) and delivery of daily gridded sea level anomalies via OceanCurrent (oceancurrent.imos.org.au).

SWOT Mission characteristics:

Budget: approximately US $1B.

Target launch date: September 2021. Launch vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Instruments: Ka-band interferometer, Microwave radiometer, Nadir altimeter

Sampling pattern: 120 km swath with 2 km grid (effective resolution ~15 km)

Cal/val orbit (0-90 days): 1-day repeat orbit at altitude of 857 km and 78° inclination

Science orbit (90 days-3 years+): 21-day repeat orbit at 891 km and 78° inclination

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