NASA's project to survey the Earth's waters finally found launch services, and the private company that was chosen to help accomplish this project is Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). As part of the contract, SpaceX will launch a satellite from NASA, onto one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets.
The launch is programmed for April 2021, when it will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The total cost of this project will reach $112 million, including the launch service.
Satellite Analysis Of The Earth's Surface Water
The satellite is called Surface Water and Ocean Topography vehicle (SWOT), created in order to survey no less than 90 percent of the Earth's waters, thus providing the first global survey of our planet's surface water. The contract is the latest in a series of important missions that the two entities have decided to partner upon.
Some of the previous contracts that made the collaboration between SpaceX and NASA famous involve the Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite which was launched in January 2016, as well as NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite which will be launched in 2017. Gwynne Shotwell, the SpaceX president, stated that his company is happy to be involved in such massive scientific projects.
Additionally, a $3.1-billion contract was signed between NASA and SpaceX in 2014, as part of a project that involved creating a capsule in order for the astronauts to reach the International Space Station.
"We're excited to carry this critical science payload into orbit for NASA, the nation, and the international community," he explained.
Sky's Not The Limit
The SWOT project is designed to study our planet's lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans, at least once every 21-day cycle, as part of a joint idea between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The satellite project will also gather highly detailed measurements that would help better understand the dynamics of our planet's water bodies, as well as their activity over time.
Despite the new SpaceX contract, the company didn't launch any rocket since September, when the Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad in Florida, along with the communication satellite. Currently, the investigation of that incident is still in progress.
According to Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO, the company's activity will restart in December. As part of this schedule, a Falcon9 was already shipped to the Vandenberg launch site.
SpaceX has become increasingly involved in space projects during the last year, and it's been rumored that the company representatives are even planning a trip to Mars.