Europe, US 'climate guardian' satellite to monitor oceans

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 20, 2020

"We know that sea level is rising", said Aschbacher. Instruments aboard the satellites will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, climate models, and hurricane tracking, according to NASA.

"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.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite will head into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg.

The new ocean-spying bird will be able to measure sea levels within a few centimeters for 90% of oceans around the globe.

Its most powerful weapon is the Poseidon-4 radar altimeter, named after the trident-wielding Greek god of the sea. -European Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-monitoring satellite is seen being encapsulated in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing on November 3, 2020.

This illustration shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's nose cone, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside, shortly before launch. Sentinel-1 is providing radar imaging measurements of ocean swell waves, of sea ice. "We are always at the edge".

Sentinel-6 is named after the late director of NASA's Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, an oceanographer who was key to getting the US space agency to join the mission. "I'm very sorry personally that he can not push the button tomorrow".

The satellite will be followed in 2025 by its twin, Sentinel-6B.

It's the first time that another space agency has been involved in ESA's flagship Copernicus mission, which already has seven satellites in orbit measuring the seas, atmosphere and land.

Aschbacher said he hopes NASA and ESA will team up on future missions, too. NASA is also contributing launch services, ground systems supporting operation of the NASA science instruments, the science data processors for two of these instruments, and support for the worldwide Ocean Surface Topography Science Team. The launch is managed by NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

But Aschbacher said missions to Earth's neighbour, and others looking to Mars and beyond, shouldn't divert attention from the need to keep an eye on our own planet. "And we need to understand how this planet functions for our own survival, for our own future".

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