Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
Cameras Capture Unfolding of Antennas on Surface Water and Ocean Topography Spacecraft

Cameras aboard the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite have captured the unfolding of the spacecraft’s main science instrument in orbit. The deployment of the large mast and antenna panels took place over four days and was completed on December 22, 2022. The masts extend from opposite sides of the spacecraft and can be seen extending and locking in place. However, the cameras did not capture the full deployment of the antennas at the ends of the masts. This milestone was confirmed by telemetry data.

The SWOT satellite was launched on December 16, 2022, and engineers are currently preparing the mission to measure the height of water on over 90% of Earth’s surface. This will provide a high-definition survey of the planet’s water for the first time. Before starting its mission, the satellite needed to unfold its large mast and antenna panels after successfully deploying the solar panel arrays that power the spacecraft.

The deployment of the solar arrays, which took about 10 minutes, was captured by two commercial cameras aboard the satellite. These cameras are the same type used to capture NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars. The antennas, belonging to the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument, successfully deployed over four days and were completed on December 22.

The KaRIn instrument is designed to capture precise measurements of the height of water in Earth’s freshwater bodies and the ocean. It will be able to see eddies, currents, and other ocean features less than 13 miles across and collect data on lakes, reservoirs, and rivers of specific sizes. By bouncing radar pulses off the surface of water on Earth and receiving signals with the antennas, KaRIn will collect data along a wide swath on either side of the satellite.

The data collected by SWOT will contribute to addressing climate questions and helping communities prepare for a warming world. SWOT is a joint project developed by NASA, the French space agency CNES, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the UK Space Agency. The project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of NASA.