SpaceX has launched a satellite for NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) built to monitor global sea levels.
The mission was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
About the size of a small pickup truck, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend a nearly 30-year continuous dataset on sea level collected by an ongoing collaboration of US and European satellites while enhancing weather forecasts and providing detailed information on large-scale ocean currents to support ship navigation near coastlines.
After arriving in orbit, the spacecraft separated from the rocket’s second stage and unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays. Ground controllers successfully acquired the satellite’s signal, and initial telemetry reports showed the spacecraft in good health.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will now undergo a series of exhaustive checks and calibrations before it starts collecting science data in a few months’ time.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will continue the sea-level record that began in 1992 with the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite and continued with Jason-1 (2001), OSTM/Jason-2 (2008), and eventually, Jason-3, which has been observing the oceans since 2016.
Together, these satellites have provided a nearly 30-year record of precise measurements of sea level height while tracking the rate at which our oceans are rising in response to our warming climate. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will pass the baton to its twin, Sentinel-6B, in 2025, extending the current climate record at least another 10 years between the two satellites.
Commenting on the launch, Karen St. Germain, Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division said: “The Earth is changing, and this satellite will help deepen our understanding of how. The changing earth processes are affecting sea level globally, but the impact on local communities varies widely. International collaboration is critical to both understanding these changes and informing coastal communities around the world.”