SpaceX will launch a powerful NASA water-monitoring satellite early Friday morning (Dec. 16), and you can watch the action live.
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite is scheduled to lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Friday at 6:46 a.m. EST (1146 GMT; 3:46 a.m. local California time).
You can watch the launch live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the agency (opens in new tab). Coverage is expected to begin at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT).
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The Falcon 9 that will launch SWOT is a veteran; its first stage has flown five previous orbital missions, SpaceX wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab). If all goes according to plan, the booster will come back to Earth for a sixth time on Friday, landing at Vandenberg about 7.5 minutes after liftoff.
The Falcon 9’s upper stage will continue carrying SWOT to orbit, eventually deploying the satellite 52.5 minutes after launch.
SWOT is a joint effort of NASA and the French space agency CNES, with contributions from the Canadian and United Kingdom space agencies. The mission will study Earth’s water levels in unprecedented detail, helping scientists get a better handle on climate change and its effects.
“Once in orbit, SWOT will measure the height of water in freshwater bodies and the ocean on more than 90% of Earth’s surface,” NASA officials said in a statement (opens in new tab).
“This information will provide insights into how the ocean influences climate change; how a warming world affects lakes, rivers and reservoirs; and how communities can better prepare for disasters, such as floods,” they added.
SWOT’s liftoff is part of a busy week for SpaceX. On Sunday (Dec. 11), a Falcon 9 lofted Hakuto-R, a moon lander built by Tokyo-based company ispace that’s also carrying a small rover for the United Arab Emirates.
And Elon Musk‘s company is apparently targeting two other missions on Friday as well. Falcon 9s are expected to launch a satellite for Luxembourgish-French telecom company SES and a batch of SpaceX’s own Starlink internet satellites from Florida’s Space Coast less than 40 minutes apart.
SWOT was originally supposed to launch on Thursday morning (Dec. 15), but SpaceX took an extra day to investigate moisture detected in two of the Falcon 9’s nine first-stage Merlin engines.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).