The satellite examined microwaves from 487–556 GHz that originated in water molecules, molecular oxygen, atomic carbon, and carbon monoxide in space. This corresponds to wavelengths of about 0.54 to 0.61 millimeters (540 to 610 μm).
SWAS made observations until July 21, 2004. In June 2005, the spacecraft was reactivated for a 3-month period (after a year of stand-by operation) in order to observe the effects of the Deep Impact probe's collision with comet P/Tempel 1.
The main optic of SWAS is a 55 cm x 71 cm elliptical off-axis Cassegrain telescope, sending light into a pair of Schottky diode receivers.
SWAS observed a unique area of the spectrum alternately described as submillimeter (for the wavelength of light seen), microwave, radio, and/or far infrared.
Payloads are separated by bullets ( · ), launches by pipes ( | ). Manned flights are indicated in bold text. Uncatalogued launch failures are listed in italics. Payloads deployed from other spacecraft are denoted in brackets.
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