SpaceX to Launch Sentinel-6 Satellite from Vandenberg AFB Saturday

Eloise Marshall
November 21, 2020

The new satellite, called Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, contains cutting-edge instruments able to capture sea level height with unprecedented accuracy, adding to space-based measurements going back nearly 30 years.

"If you measure it at sea level, you have one measurement device in Amsterdam and you have a different one in Bangkok and yet another one in Miami", Aschbacher told The Associated Press by video from ESA offices in Frascati, Italy.

Team Vandenberg and SpaceX are scheduled to launch the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite Saturday, Nov. 21 at 9:17 a.m., from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

"Back during hurricane Sandy, there was a huge storm surge and it even knocked out some of the gauges that measure sea level rise".

To measure the height of sea surface, Sentinel-6 will use its state-of-the-art Poseidon-4 radar altimeter to bounce a radar pulse off the top of the ocean and measure the time it takes for the pulse to return to the satellite. The big question is, by how much, how quickly.

The new satellite will also collect measurements at higher resolution than its predecessors, allowing researchers to peer more closely at small ocean features, especially along the coastlines. Sentinel-6 will be launched on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 missile.

Also on Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is a global navigation satellite system radio occultation (GNSS-RO) instrument to provide measurements of the atmospheric temperature and moisture by measuring signals from GPS and other navigation satellites.

The mission comprises two identical satellites launched sequentially.

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"We can not ignore that our planet is changing", said Pierre Delsaux, deputy director general for space for the European Commission, at a briefing about the mission in October.

The satellite launching Saturday is named after Freilich, NASA's former Earth Science Division director.

"It's an extra special day when we will see this satellite launch, the satellite that he worked so hard to put in place", said St. Germain. "I'm very sorry personally that he can not push the button tomorrow". For instance, the altimetry accumulated from Sentinel-6 could be joined with Earth's gravity estimations from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.

"If needed, backup launch opportunities are available on subsequent days, with the instantaneous launch window falling about 12 minutes early each day", NASA said in a statement.

Sentinel-6 will not be represented separately in products from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but it will strengthen models, maps, NOAA and other partners in the mission it is already producing to keep the world's population safe from intensifying hurricanes, the representatives said.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was photographed before it was encased in a Falcon 9 missile casing, on November 3, 2020.

But Aschbacher said lunar missions and others looking to Mars and beyond, shouldn't divert attention from the need to keep an eye on our own planet.

"We all know that (Earth) is undergoing enormous changes, extremely fast changes and changes we never had before on this planet with a speed and intensity caused, obviously, by humans", he said. "From that point of view, we need to understand why the climate is changing, what are the factors, and we need to monitor the situation".

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