Microwave engineering company Flann Microwave, which was selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to provide critical hardware for high-resolution radar components, has helped launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite into space.

SWOT is the first-of-its-kind to survey the surface water on Earth, observe ocean surface topography, and measure the changes in these bodies of water over time.

Launched on 16 December from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the SWOT satellite was jointly developed and managed by NASA, the French Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and the UK Space Agency.

Following JPL’s previous adoption of Flann Microwave’s high-precision test and measurement product range, the SWOT is the first collaborative spaceflight project between Flann and NASA.

Custom-made waveguide equipment

Due to the critical performance requirements of the project, Flann worked in close collaboration with the engineers at JPL to develop custom-made waveguide equipment for spaceflight operations.

Flann’s innovative waveguide equipment was designed to withstand the rigours of spaceflight and help provide higher accuracy and precision measurements of Earth’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans, as well as mapping ocean surface height, in greater detail than previous measurement systems.

Tamlin Pavelsky, the SWOT Science Team Lead (2022-2024), said: “SWOT will usher in a new golden age for the science of rivers and lakes. Right now, we can measure how the amount of water in lakes and reservoirs changes for a few thousand lakes worldwide.

“With SWOT, we’ll be able to observe millions, […] help[ing] us to understand changing risks from flooding, opportunities for sustainable water use, and the fundamental natures of these important natural systems.”
Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter