In 2015, market-leading microwave engineering company Flann Microwave was selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to provide critical hardware for the high-resolution radar components on a new multinational satellite. The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite 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. 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), commented “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.”
Flann’s uniquely-designed microwave components have been installed on the satellite ahead of launch and linked to NASA’s high-resolution state-of-the-art radar interferometry systems to help accurately measure Earth’s surface water, weather and climate predictions, and assist in freshwater management.
Sam Brokenshire, Technical Sales Manager at Flann Microwave, states “the space market is currently growing exponentially. At this moment in time, the space market for Flann accounts for less than 5% of current projects […] but we could be seeing this value increase significantly over just the next few years.”
Since 1956, Flann Microwave has been a market-leading designer and manufacturer of precision microwave components, test and measurement products, and communications equipment. Based in Cornwall, UK, Flann’s purpose-built factory has been instrumental in successfully designing and implementing a range of high-quality waveguide solutions for flight hardware. Flann’s reputation, quality, reliability, and performance of its products has recently made it a growing part of the international space industry.