Launch Vehicle & Launch Date

Launch Broadcast

Watch with NASA as we launch an international mission to understand the Earth's water like never before. SWOT, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission, will survey nearly all water on the Earth's surface for the first time. Tracking how water levels rise and fall over time, SWOT will study ocean features at ten times the resolution of current technologies and measure more than a million lakes and rivers around the globe. The observations we make with SWOT will help scientists improve flood forecasts, build better models for monitoring droughts, and make more precise predictions for rising sea levels. SWOT is a collaborative effort by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. SWOT is scheduled to lift off at 6:46 a.m. EST (1146 UTC) Friday, Dec. 16 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. NASA's live launch coverage begins at 6 a.m. (1100 UTC). Credit: NASA

Launch recap

Highlights from the Dec. 15, 2022, launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, a mission led by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). SWOT lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:46 a.m. PST (6:46 a.m. EST). The mission will make the first global survey of nearly all water on Earth’s surface and address some of the most pressing climate change questions of our time. SWOT is a collaboration between NASA and CNES, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for SWOT. Launch is targeted for December 15, 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service.

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Mission Development Timeline

SWOT was one of 15 missions listed in the 2007 National Research Council Decadal Survey of Earth science missions that NASA should implement in the subsequent decade (full report available here). In its earliest stages, the mission underwent Concept Studies (Pre-Phase A) and Concept & Technology Development (Phase A).

Mission lifecycle phases.
Mission lifecycle phases.

In early 2015, SWOT entered Phase B, Preliminary Design & Technology Completion. In 2016, SWOT was approved for implementation and thus entered Phase C (Final Design & Fabrication).

To learn more about SWOT's latest progress towards launch, visit the Flight Systems and Ground Systems pages. To learn about the airborne instrument making measurements similar to those that will be made in space by SWOT to prepare for the hydrology post-launch Cal/Val, visit the AirSWOT page.

SWOT will launch in Phase D. Approximately the first six months after launch, it will be in a "fast-sampling" phase with a 1-day repeat orbit at an altitude of 857 km (532.5 mi). This initial period will focus on achieving calibration and validation objectives while studying rapidly changing phenomena. Members of the international ocean science community may participate in this phase by creating programs to deploy in situ assets in the regions covered by the SWOT fast-sampling orbit. This will provide a global series of experiments with fine-scale ocean campaigns, as well as ground-based data for comparison with SWOT's daily 2-D sea surface height data. The fast-sampling phase will end with an increase in the observatory's altitude to 891 km (553.6 mi).

Phase E (Operations & Sustainment), nominally lasting three years, will have a 21-day repeat orbit to balance global coverage and frequent sampling. This non-sun-synchronous orbit was chosen to minimize tidal aliasing and ensure coverage of major water bodies on land. SWOT's 120-km-wide (~75-mi-wide) swath will result in overlapping measurements over most of the globe with an average revisit time of 11 days.

SWOT orbit timeline.
SWOT orbit timeline.