The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite — named for the former head of NASA’s Earth science division who died of cancer earlier this year — is affixed to the top of the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket awaiting liftoff from the Central Coast of California at 12:17:08 p.m. EST (9:17:08 a.m. PST; 1717:08 GMT) Saturday.
The satellite was built by Airbus in Germany and is the size of a small pickup truck. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich carries a radar altimeter, a microwave radiometer, and instruments to precisely locate the satellite in orbit. Working together, the instruments will track changes in sea level down to a few centimeters.
Rising sea levels are one consequence of climate change, and predecessor satellites show the rate of sea level rise is accelerating, according to mission scientists.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the next in a series of oceanography missions tracking sea level rise, beginning with the U.S.-French Topex/Poseidon mission that launched in 1992. The Jason 1, Jason 2, and Jason 3 satellites followed Topex/Poseidon, and an identical satellite to Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich named Sentinel-6B is planned for launch in 2025 to further extend the data record of sea level rise.
The mission was developed in a partnership ...