A satellite unfolds in space, video from NASA

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Two cameras aboard the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite captured the large mast and antenna arrays of the spacecraft’s main science instrument as they unfolded over four days. This process was completed on December 22, 2022. The masts, which deploy on the opposite side of the spacecraft’s side, can be seen exiting the spacecraft and locking into place, but the cameras were unable to capture the antennas at the ends of the masts being fully deployed (an important milestone that the team confirmed with telemetry data).
In this video, two cameras are located next to each other.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography spacecraft’s cameras captured the antennae of its main science instrument deploying in orbit.

But before it can do that, the satellite will need to deploy its large mast and antenna arrays (see above) after successfully deploying the arrays of solar panels that power the spacecraft. The mission tracks and controls the satellite using telemetry data, but it also equipped the spacecraft with four custom commercial cameras to record the action.

The solar panels were fully deployed shortly after launch, which took about 10 minutes.

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite has deployed its solar arrays in Earth orbit.

The antennas were successfully deployed for four days, the process was completed on December 22. Two cameras focused on the KaRIn antennas captured the mast extending from the spacecraft and locked in place, but failed to capture when the antennas were fully deployed (a milestone the team confirmed with telemetry data.)

Thirty-three feet (10 meters) apart at either end of the mast, two antennas belong to the ground-breaking Ka-band radar interferometer ( KaRIn ). Designed to accurately measure water heights in Earth’s freshwater bodies and oceans, KaRIn will see eddies, currents, and other ocean features less than 13 miles (20 kilometers) in size. It will also collect data on lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres (62,500 square meters) and rivers more than 330 feet (100 meters) wide.

KaRIn will do this by bouncing radar pulses off Earth’s water surface and receiving signals with both of these antennas, collecting data along a 30-mile (50-kilometer) wide swath on either side of the satellite.

The SWOT data provided will help researchers and decision makers address some of the most pressing climate issues of our time and help communities prepare for warming.

More about the mission

SWOT was jointly developed by NASA and the French space agency Center National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) with the participation of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. JPL, managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for NASA, is leading the American component of the project. For the flight system payload, NASA provides a Ka-band radar interferometer (KaRIn), a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instruments. CNES provides the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, the Poseidon dual-frequency altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), the KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (jointly with Thales Alenia Space and supported by the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform and ground operations. CSA supplies the KaRIn high power transmitter. NASA provides the launch vehicle, and the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, manages the associated launch services.

To learn more about SWOT, visit:

https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/

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