Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) – Live NASA/SpaceX Launch Coverage

Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Satellite Illustration

This illustration shows the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite in orbit with its solar panels and KaRIn instrument antennas deployed. Credit: CNES

NASA has started live launch coverage of the international Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission!

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands poised for liftoff at Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Space Launch Complex-4 East in California, ready to send SWOT on the first mission to observe nearly all water on the Earth’s surface. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch.

This will be LSP’s 42nd primary mission to launch from Vandenberg, and the program’s 101st full end-to-end mission.

Today’s launch has two instantaneous launch opportunities. The first is targeted for 6:46:47 a.m. EST (3:46:47 a.m. PST), with a backup opportunity 10 minutes later at 6:56:47 a.m. EST (3:56:47 a.m. PST). Watch the launch broadcast on NASA TV, YouTube, Twitter, the NASA app, or the agency’s website and follow along right here on the blog as we take you through the entire flight profile.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, SWOT Satellite

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite atop, stands poised for liftoff at Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on December 16, 2022. Credit: NASA

Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 Weather Squadron are predicting a 100% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, with no primary weather concerns.

Here’s a look at some of today’s countdown and ascent milestones (all times are approximate):


Hr/Min/Sec        Event
– 00:38:00             SpaceX launch director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00             RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
– 00:35:00             1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
– 00:16:00             2nd stage LOX loading underway
– 00:07:00             Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:01:00             Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00             Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
– 00:00:45             SpaceX launch director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03             Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00             Falcon 9 liftoff

SWOT Spacecraft SpaceX Falcon 9

On Monday, December 12, teams mated the SWOT spacecraft – enclosed inside its protective payload fairing – to the top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket was raised to a vertical position following its arrival to Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-4 East on December 14, where it remains poised for liftoff. Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber


Hr/Min/Sec        Event
00:01:12               Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:16               1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:20               1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:27               2nd stage engine starts
00:02:33               Boostback burn start
00:02:58             Fairing deployment
00:03:28               Boostback burn end
00:06:02               1st stage entry burn start
00:06:14               1st stage entry burn complete
00:07:06               1st stage landing burn start
00:07:35               1st stage landing
00:08:24               2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:43:22               2nd stage engine starts (SES-2(
00:43:27               2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:52:28               SWOT deploys

NASA and CNES (French Space Agency) are collaborating to make the first global survey of Earth’s surface fresh water and study fine-scale ocean currents with a new mission called SWOT, or Surface Water and Ocean Topography. SWOT will collect data on the height of Earth’s salt and fresh water – including oceans, lakes, and rivers – enabling researchers to track the location of water over time, which will help measure the effects of climate change.

On Thursday, teams held a delta launch readiness review to evaluate data collected on two of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket engines and determined the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission is a “go” for launch. Technicians completed data reviews and the analysis of the presence of moisture in the engines, which was discovered during routine inspections on December 14.

SWOT will provide NASA’s first global survey of water on Earth’s surface, measuring the elevation of water in major lakes, rivers, and wetlands while observing ocean features in higher definition than ever before. The data gathered by SWOT will help researchers better understand the availability of Earth’s freshwater resources, track regional sea level changes, monitor coastal processes, and more.

SWOT is a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatial (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and United Kingdom Space Agency (UK Space Agency).

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