Aircrew delivers U.S.-French satellite for NASA

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexander Merchak
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron assigned to Travis Air Force Base, California, transported a Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite from Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, Nice, France, to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, in support of a multinational mission, Oct. 13 - 17, 2022. The international mission led by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), will be the first to survey nearly all water on Earth’s surface.

The 22nd AS put to use the only C-5C Super Galaxy in the Air Force capable of this mission. This is the sole aircraft able to support the mission due to its enhanced cargo capabilities, according to U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Wilson, 22nd AS C-5 evaluator pilot and aircraft commander.

“In just under seven weeks, with coordination between NASA and Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales, we were able to develop a plan to safely transport the satellite from France where it was undergoing final assembly and testing to its launch site,” said Wilson. “The timeline for us to depart Travis, arrive in France, onload the SWOT satellite, transport it to Vandenberg, offload and begin movement of the satellite to the pre-launch preparation facility was 88 hours.”

The modified C-5C carried a total of 138,600 pounds of cargo.

While there are two C-5Cs with this modification, this is the only one operational as the other C-5C is currently getting a major maintenance and avionics upgrade, according to Wilson.

International partners from four countries have joined forces to develop SWOT which will be able to provide comprehensive high-definition views of freshwater bodies from space, observe fine details of the ocean’s surface topography and measure how bodies of water change over time.

The satellite is scheduled for launch December 15, 2022, at Vandenberg Space Force Base. For more updates, visit