SpaceX launches Sentinel-6 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force base in California
What is the Sentinel-6 satellite?
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, designed to monitor oceans
- This satellite will ensure the continuity of sea-level observations into the fourth decade and will provide measurements of global sea-level rise.
- This satellite has been named after Dr. Michael Freilich, who was the Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division from 2006-2019 and passed away in August this year.
- Sentinel-6 will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help scientists measure the sea surface height.
- It will also measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.
- The mission, called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission, is designed to measure the height of the ocean, which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
- The spacecraft consists of two satellites, one of them launched on Saturday, and the other, called Sentinel-6B, to be launched in 2025
- It follows the most recent U.S.-European sea level observation satellite, Jason-3, which launched in 2016, and is currently providing high-precision and timely observations of the topography of the global ocean
Who has developed it?
It has been developed jointly by the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EU, with contributions from France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
Significance of the satellite
- The data collected by the Sentinel-6 will support operational oceanography, by providing improved forecasts of ocean currents, wind and wave conditions.
- This data will allow improvements in both short-term forecasting for weather predictions in the two-to-four-week range (hurricane intensity predictions), and long-term forecasting, for instance for seasonal conditions like El Niño and La Niña.