The space agency said Nov. 22 that the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company will provide launch services for its Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket loaded with a SWOT satellite will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The contract cost covers the launch, as well as “spacecraft processing,” payload integration, and tracking, data and telemetry support.
“Designed to make the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water, in addition to high-resolution ocean measurements, the SWOT mission will collect detailed measurements of how water bodies on Earth change over time,” NASA said. “The satellite will survey at least 90 percent of the globe, studying Earth’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans, at least twice every 21 days, aid in freshwater management around the world, to improve ocean circulation models and weather and climate predictions.”
The SWOT spacecraft will be developed and managed jointly by NASA and French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales. The SWOT project office is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
SpaceX hopes to return to flight this year, once an investigation into the explosion at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida is concluded. So far, it appears a problem with fueling procedures may have caused the loss of a Falcon 9 and its satellite payload.
Meantime, the latest NASA contract award comes as speculation swirls over the direction the space agency’s agenda may take under President-elect Donald Trump. Some suggest climate-monitoring missions may be minimized in the future, though in general the effect of the White House turnover on commercial contractors such as SpaceX may not be unfavorable.