World’s first satellite launch to measure Earth’s water level | Daily News Byte

World’s first satellite launch to measure Earth’s water level

 | Daily News Byte


A UK-backed mission, which will observe vast swaths of ocean and surface water in unprecedented detail, has launched into space.

The International Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite took off on December 16 from Vandenberg, California.

SWOT will use a revolutionary radar instrument called KaRIn to survey at least 90% of the Earth’s surface, measure and monitor changes in oceans, lakes, reservoirs, rivers and wetlands, generating data that will help improve our understanding of climate change. , as well as predicting and reducing flood risks around the world.


SWOT is a satellite developed jointly by NASA and the French space agency, CNES, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency.

The UK Space Agency has awarded UK technology company Honeywell £12.2 million to develop KaRIn’s Ka Band duplexer, which routes critical radar signals around satellites at frequencies never before reached.

Image credit: NASA

UK scientists are also supporting an international effort to assess and exploit SWOT data on areas with very high tidal ranges and fast currents. The UK Space Agency has partnered with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), investing £375,000 between them in the SWOT-UK science research project which will focus on SWOT data covering the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary area.

Science Minister George Freeman said:

Water is fast becoming a key geopolitical resource: droughts and floods due to climate change and global interest in water temperatures and flows.

The UK Government has just committed £314 million to take part in the European Earth Observation Mission, which gives us access to critical data about our natural world and how we can tackle climate change.

It is fantastic to see industry and universities from across the UK collaborating on a global mission that will mark a step-change in our ability to map, monitor and respond to ocean and surface waters.

Our space sector thrives on building relationships with our international counterparts and this mission has the UK at its heart with our friends in the US, France, Canada and NASA.

UK Space Agency CEO Dr. Paul Bate said:

SWOT will revolutionize our understanding of our planet’s surface water and how its patterns are changing, giving us vital information to improve how we manage one of humanity’s most valuable resources.

This is an important mission for the UK in terms of building radar instruments and directly receiving and analyzing Earth observation data for the UK.

I look forward to seeing the data the satellite returns over the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary.

The SWOT-UK project is led by the National Oceanography Center (NOC) with the University of Bristol and Bangor University to assess SWOT data on British waters. The Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary will be observed once a day over a three-month period from April to June 2023 to provide unprecedented information from space on water level changes in this dynamic coastal environment.

Professor Christine Gommenger, Principal Scientist of Satellite Oceanography at the NOC, has over 20 years’ experience in measuring sea level with altimetry and co-leads SWOT-UK.

Prof. Christine Gomenginger said:

For the first time, SWOT will produce detailed images of water levels that will help understand the complex processes that link water levels in oceans and inland waters.

One of the objectives of SWOT-UK is to demonstrate how satellite Earth observation data can be used with in situ instruments and numerical models to answer questions important to science and society.

Image credit: NASA

Paul Bates CBE FRS, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Bristol, was part of the team that originally presented the SWOT concept to NASA 20 years ago and his team contributed flood hydraulic models during the mission design phase.

Prof. Paul Bates said:

SWOT will transform our ability to track currents in freshwater and oceans on Earth. For the first time, we will be able to track flood waves moving down river systems and see the rise and fall of water levels in millions of lakes and wetlands around the world.

We will be able to use this data not only to make new scientific discoveries, but also to help populations around the world better manage water risks and resources.

Bangor University led the deployment of sensors called Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) to measure tidal currents in the Bristol Channel, and the Riverare Instrument, which will take similar measurements in the River Severn by traveling the channel on a small boat.

Simon Neill, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Bangor University, said:

An ADCP is a device that uses sound waves to measure the speed and direction of currents throughout the water column, providing insight into how water moves in rivers and oceans.

The data collected from these devices will enable us to develop a fuller understanding of the Bristol Channel and make direct comparisons with the data collected by SWOT.

Made in the UK, Honeywell’s Ka band duplexer is a critical part of the KaRIn altimeter on the SWOT satellite, routing the radar signal around the satellite and transmitting at a power of 1,500W – a level never before seen in this type of device – allowing Karin is Measure water levels to better than 2 cm height accuracy at a spatial resolution of 1 km from an orbit 891 km above Earth.

Image credit: Thales Alenia

Craig Molford, Senior Director of Space Payloads at Honeywell, said:

The SWOT duplexer was undoubtedly one of the most challenging and complex radio frequency (RF) duplexers Honeywell produced – and we built a lot of them.

He used an unprecedented number of ferrite switches, couplers and electronics boards to enable the level of performance, precision and ruggedness required for this incredible platform.

The talented Honeywell engineering and manufacturing teams in the UK drew on decades of experience in (RF) technology for spacecraft to develop the SWOT duplexer.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory will also work with the Ocean University of China to analyze the returned data and identify and track eddies, particularly how the Mid-Atlantic Ridge affects their progression into the South Atlantic and how that affects the north-south transport of heat. will pay special attention to by the sea.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory NCEO Remote Sensing Oceanographer Dr. Graham Quarterly said:

This mission will give us valuable insight into the flow of warm saline water within the Atlantic and improve our understanding of the factors that affect sea level rise. This will help us improve our models of predicted future changes, so that society can be better prepared.

The UK recently committed £315 million to future Earth observation and climate missions and programs through the European Space Agency, including TRUTHS and Aeolus-2, and a further £65 million to national programs that will strengthen skills and capabilities in this vital area.


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