California: “The Earth is changing, and this satellite will help deepen our understanding of how,” said Karen St Germain, director of National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Science Division after a joint US-European satellite, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, built to monitor global sea levels lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday (November 21, 2020).
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich which is reportedly about the size of a small pickup truck 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.
Watch the launch:
Get lifted! Relive all the action from today’s picture-perfect launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich. The US-European partnership lifted off from @30thSpacewing aboard a @SpaceX Falcon 9 and will soon be #SeeingTheSeas from orbit. https://t.co/7AzTmb1g4R pic.twitter.com/GtkPjmokcW
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) November 21, 2020
“3.. 2.. 1.. 0.. and liftoff of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, continuing a legacy of ocean observation and international collaboration to benefit all humanity.” pic.twitter.com/JCT0AnV0za
— NASA (@NASA) November 21, 2020
“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,” said Karen St Germain.
According to NASA, the spacecraft separated from the rocket’s second stage and unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays after arriving in orbit.
“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, said the US space agency.
Notably, the spacecraft is named after Michael Freilich who passed away in August 2020 and was a former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. Freilich was a leading figure in advancing ocean observations from space.
NASA said that the 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.
“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,” said NASA.
“The data from this satellite, which is so critical for climate monitoring and weather forecasting, will be of unprecedented accuracy,” said Alain Ratier, the Director-General of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
Ratier added, “These data, which can only be obtained by measurements from space, will bring a wide range of benefits to people around the globe, from safer ocean travel to more precise prediction of hurricane paths, from a greater understanding of sea-level rise to more accurate seasonal weather forecasts, and so much more.