SpaceX has just won another multi-million contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The contract, which involves launching one of the agency’s Earth science satellites has a tentative launch schedule of within 5 years.
The NASA satellite is called the Surface Water and Ocean Topography vehicle (SWOT) and as the name implies, it will scan earth’s oceans in a bid to come up with comprehensive, global data about Earth’s surface water. The launch is expected to take place in 2021 with SWOT abroad one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Speaking on the topic, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said,
We’re excited to carry this critical science payload into orbit for NASA, the nation, and the international community. We appreciate NASA’s partnership and confidence in SpaceX as a launch provider.
This is not the first time that SpaceX is launching a payload for NASA. The company launched NASA’s Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite in January. It also has other contracts going for it and will be launching NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, in 2017.
Interestingly, NASA will be shelling out almost $112 million for getting SWOT into orbit. This is significantly higher than the $82 million and the $87 million SpaceX charged NASA for Jason and TESS respectively. However, NASA puts the abnormally high figure down to the fact that it will be covering more than just the cost of taking the services of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
So, part of the money will be going to organizations that will be providing the additional support required to get SWOT settled in the orbit. Meanwhile, landing a brand new contract from NASA is a endorsement to SpaceX that comes at a good time. The company’s Falcon 9 rockets have been unable to take flight after one of them exploded in September.
While SpaceX is targeting a return to flight before the year end, NASA’s latest, multi-million contract is bound to have boosted the morale at the private space exploration venture.