Newest Worldwide Water Satellite tv for pc Packs Highly effective Engineering Punch

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SWOT in Orbit (Illustration)

This illustration exhibits the SWOT satellite tv for pc in orbit with daylight glinting off one array of photo voltaic panels, as effectively as each KaRIn instrument antennas deployed. Credit score: CNES

Meet the scientific coronary heart of the Floor Water and Ocean Topography mission, which can see Earth’s water in increased definition than ever earlier than.

Efficiently launched on December 16, the Floor Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite tv for pc guarantees to supply a unprecedented accounting of water over a lot of Earth’s floor. Its measurements of contemporary water and the ocean will assist researchers handle among the most urgent local weather questions of our time and assist communities put together for a warming world. Making this doable is a scientific instrument referred to as the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn).

Years in growth, the instrument has been designed to seize very exact measurements of the peak of water in Earth’s freshwater our bodies and the ocean. KaRIn will measure the peak of water within the ocean, “seeing” options like currents and eddies which might be lower than 13 miles (20 kilometers) throughout – as much as 10 instances smaller than these detectable with different sea degree satellites. It should additionally acquire knowledge on lakes and reservoirs bigger than 15 acres (62,500 sq. meters) and rivers wider than 330 ft (100 meters) throughout.

SWOT KaRIn Antenna Test

Members of the worldwide SWOT mission take a look at one in all the antennas for the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument in a clear room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“For freshwater, this shall be a quantum leap by way of our data,” stated Daniel Esteban-Fernandez, KaRIn instrument supervisor at

The cutting-edge KaRIn instrument lies at the heart of this international mission, the latest in a longstanding collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency.

A Bigger Picture

Until now, researchers looking to study a body of water relied on instruments that measure at specific locations – like gauges in rivers or the ocean – or that are space-based, gathering data along narrow “tracks” of Earth they can see from orbit. Researchers then have to extrapolate if they want a broader idea of what’s happening in a water body.

KaRIn is different. The radar instrument uses the Ka-band frequency at the microwave end of the electromagnetic spectrum to penetrate cloud cover and the dark of night. As a result, it can take measurements regardless of weather or time of day. The instrument configuration consists of one antenna at each end of a boom that’s 33 feet (10 meters) long. By bouncing radar pulses off the water’s surface and receiving the return signal with both antennas, KaRIn will collect data along a swath 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide on either side of the satellite. “With KaRIn data, we’ll be able to actually see what’s happening, rather than relying on these extrapolations,” said Tamlin Pavelsky, the NASA freshwater science lead for SWOT, based at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The two KaRIn antennas will see the same spot on Earth from 553 miles (890 kilometers) above. Since the antennas look at a given point on Earth from two directions, the return signals reflected back to the satellite arrive at each antenna slightly out of step, or phase, with one another. Using this phase difference, the distance between the two antennas, and the radar wavelength, researchers can calculate the height of the water that KaRIn is looking at.

This animation exhibits the 2 antennas for SWOT’s Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument unfolding in orbit. Credit score: NASA/

The team spent years overcoming those and a multitude of other challenges to deliver the KaRIn instrument. Very soon the interferometer will fly for the first time on the SWOT satellite and start sending back terabytes of data. “KaRIn will be putting something on the table that just didn’t exist before,” said Esteban-Fernandez.

More About the Mission

Scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Central California on Dec. 15, SWOT is being jointly developed by NASA and CNES, with contributions from the CSA and the UK Space Agency. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the U.S. component of the project. For the flight system payload, NASA is providing the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument, a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instrument operations. CNES is providing the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, the dual frequency Poseidon altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), the KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (together with Thales Alenia Space and with support from the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform, and ground control segment. CSA is providing the KaRIn high-power transmitter assembly. NASA is providing the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

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