LOS ANGELES: Early on Friday, a SpaceX rocket launched a US-French satellite intended to undertake a first-ever worldwide survey of Earth’s surface waters. The mission is anticipated to provide new information on the causes and effects of climate change.
Around 160 miles (260 kilometres) northwest of Los Angeles, on the launch pad at the Vandenberg US Space Force Base, Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company’s Falcon 9 booster lit up the dawn sky along the California coast as it rocketed off.
The NASA-directed liftoff was broadcast live online by the US space agency.Within nine minutes, the satellite-carrying upper stage of the Falcon 9 had entered orbit.
Earlier, the rocket’s reusable lower stage had disengaged from it and flown back to Earth, causing sonic booms as it did so before descending to a peaceful landing at the base.
Less than an hour after launch, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, or SWOT, was released into its own beginning orbit, which was located roughly 530 miles (850 km) above the planet. SWOT was captured floating away in video from a camera mounted on the rocket’s upper stage.
A half-hour later, SWOT’s systems were confirmed to be functional when CNES mission control in Toulouse, France, reported that it had recovered the first complete set of signals from the satellite.
The satellite’s main instrument is a sophisticated microwave radar system that can survey oceans, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers in high-definition over 90% of the planet.
As per experts, the information, which was gathered via radar sweeps at least twice every 21 days, will be used to improve ocean circulation models, support weather and climate predictions, and help manage freshwater supplies in drought-stricken areas.