The satellite will watch how Earth’s bodies of water change over time.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has chosen SpaceX to launch a satellite to perform the first-ever survey of the Earth’s surface water, the agency announced on Tuesday.
As part of the mission, called Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT), NASA, in collaboration with the French and Canadian space agencies, hopes to measure how Earth’s bodies of water change over time. The agency wrote that it is aiming to launch the satellite using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket — which typically costs $62 million, according to the SpaceX website— by April 2021.
The satellite will survey at least 90 percent of the Earth’s surface waters at least twice every 21 days, according to NASA.
“The total cost for NASA to launch SWOT is approximately $112 million, which includes the launch service, spacecraft processing, payload integration and tracking, data and telemetry support,” the agency wrote.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk previously said that profits from NASA missions will help the company work toward its goal of colonizing Mars, though he admitted the mission would require much more funding than what NASA contracts alone could provide.
Already, NASA has awarded SpaceX a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract to supply cargo to the International Space Station, as well as a contract to shuttle crew members to the ISS as early as next year.
“We’re excited to carry this critical science payload into orbit for NASA, the nation, and the international community,” SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said. “We appreciate NASA’s partnership and confidence in SpaceX as a launch provider.”
Musk hopes to begin launching private missions to Mars as soon as 2018 in the hope of eventually shuttling humans to Mars by 2024.
That being said, SpaceX recently suffered what the company called an “anomaly” when a Falcon 9 rocket and its payload caught fire. The company has had difficulty pinpointing the root of the problem and has yet to conclude its investigation.