Elon Musk's SpaceX to Launch NASA's $112-Million Ocean-Surveying Satellite
Despite its recent anomaly, the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk's SpaceX still landed a deal with NASA to launch an innovative Ocean-Surveying satellite. This means SpaceX is still one of the top commercial space flight service companies out there.
The project is under NASA's Earth science satellite program that is expected to launch within the next five years. SpaceX will launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography spacecraft or SWOT. SWOT is designed to scan the Earth's ocean and will perform the first global survey of the planet's surface water.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the satellite payload to space with the original launch date set for April 2021 from the launch pad in Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The signed agreement intensifies SpaceX and NASA affiliation to launch another "critical" space mission. Aside from SWOT, SpaceX also launched several projects for the agency including Jason-3, another ocean monitoring satellite that was sent to space last January.
In 2017, SpaceX is also set to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS is capable of detecting small planets or exoplanets near bright stars outside the Solar System. "We're excited to carry this critical science payload into orbit for NASA, the nation, and the international community," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president said in a statement. "We appreciate NASA's partnership and confidence in SpaceX as a launch provider," Shotwell added.
The project costs a total of $112 million. Some say its an increase from SpaceX Falcon 9 service labeled at only $62 million. This project also costs more than previous NASA-SpaceX collaboration like the Jason-3 satellite mission that was valued at $82 million and the TESS satellite at $87 million.
But NASA says the total amount includes the fee that will be given to other companies involved in the launch and not limited to SpaceX. "The specific launch service price is considered competition and procurement sensitive information," NASA spokesperson Cheryl Warner said in the same report.
But before the mission is launch, SpaceX will have to get a clearance to pursue pending missions because Elon Musk's commercial space flight service company is still grounded due to the Falcon 9 explosion last September.