SpaceX wins NASA launch contract for first-ever global survey of Earth’s water

NASA has selected SpaceX to provide the launch services for an April 2021 mission with the aim of surveying all of Earth’s surface water for the first time. The launch of the “Surface Water and Topography” mission will be handled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, taking off from Launch Complex 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The NASA mission itself is a first, with the aim of providing high-res measurements of the world’s oceans, as well as measurements of changes to oceans over time. A minimum of 90 percent of the world will be covered by the survey, with coverage of both freshwater and saltwater rivers, lakes, oceans and more occurring at least twice per body every 21 days. The intent in gathering this data is to help with climate science, as well as efforts to manage freshwater access for people around the world.

SpaceX currently has nine NASA missions on its planned launch manifest for upcoming contracts, but it still hasn’t provided a definite date for resuming launches following the explosion of a SpaceX rocket during pre-flight checks on a launch pad in September. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on CNBC in early November that the company’s launches could resume as early as mid-December, as the investigation into the cause of the explosion nears an end.