On Thursday morning, a NASA-led multinational satellite mission was scheduled to lift off from Southern California as part of a massive Earth science initiative to undertake the first-ever thorough survey of the world’s seas, lakes, and rivers.
This cutting-edge radar satellite, known as SWOT (short for Surface Water and Ocean Topography), will provide researchers with a never-before-seen perspective on the vital fluid that makes up 70% of Earth’s surface and will therefore help them better understand the causes and effects of climate change.
On Thursday morning, SpaceX was scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg U.S. Space Force Base, located roughly 170 miles (275 km) northwest of Los Angeles, to launch the SWOT satellite into orbit. Research data from the SUV-sized satellite is expected to be available in a matter of months, if all goes according to plan.
After over two decades of work, scientists have developed SWOT, which uses cutting-edge microwave radar technology to acquire height-surface data of 90% of the world’s seas, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Radar scans of the Earth are performed at least 2 times every 21 days, and the data from these scans will improve ocean-circulation models, strengthen weather and climate forecasts, and help manage freshwater resources in drought-stricken regions.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), located in the Los Angeles area, was responsible for the satellite’s design and construction. One of the 15 missions recommended by the National Research Council for NASA to complete in the next decade is the Space Weather Observation and Targeting (SWOT) mission, which was developed by the United States Space Agency in tandem with its French and Canadian counterparts.
The mission’s primary focus is on learning more about the natural process by which the oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere and carbon dioxide, helping to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising too quickly and limiting the effects of climate change.
SWOT is an orbiting satellite that scans the oceans in search of minor variations in surface elevation near smaller currents & eddies, where it is theorized that the oceans depletion of heat and carbon occurs. According to JPL, SWOT has a resolution that is 10 times higher than that of current technology.
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