SWOT took off from France to California

SWOT departed for Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) on Monday 16 October.

Artist’s impression of the SWOT satellite. Source: CNES

SWOT satellite departed from Nice, France, to Vandenberg Space Force Base (CSFB), in California, USA, on Monday 16 October aboard a C5 Galaxy of the US Air Force.

“This is the first time we are sending a satellite built in France with a US Air Force aircraft. It’s a project that started in 2009, the design study took a long time because it’s a very ambitious project, with breakthrough technologies, and today we see it leaving towards the US. It feels strange because we have been following SWOT for months, for years; we know it in all its detail, and today we see it leaving. It’s a bit like the departure of the prodigal son” told to BFM TV Thierry Lafon, SWOT project leader at CNES.

According to BMF television, it took more than 8 hours of careful maneuvering to move from one truck to another the container inside of which the satellite is stored. Eventually the container was loaded inside the aircraft.

Thanks to NASA, which has access to the US Air Force, we were able to have access to large cargo planes that are capable of carrying volumes and loads like those of the Antonov,” said to BMF TV Christophe Duplay, SWOT program manager. Indeed, as a consequence of the crisis in Ukraine the Ukrainian-made Antonov aircrafts currently used for this kind of transport are currently unavailable. 

SWOT is a joint mission of CNES and NASA, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA). It was assembled, integrated and tested at Thales Alenia Space’s facility in Cannes, France.

SWOT launch is targeted for December 15, 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.