Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Is Ready to Head Into Space

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Encapsulated

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is encapsulated in a protective nosecone, or payload fairing, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The fairing will sit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the satellite into Earth orbit in the late-November 2020. Credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

The newest addition to a long line of ocean-monitoring satellites is ready to head into space.

With a little over two weeks to go until its California launch, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft is undergoing final preparations. Technicians and engineers have encapsulated the satellite in the payload fairing — the protective nosecone that will ride atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is targeted for November 21, 2020.

“We’re almost there,” said project manager Parag Vaze of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Soon, we’ll be watching the satellite on its journey into Earth orbit 830 miles above our planet.” Project manager Pierrik Vuilleumier of ESA (European Space Agency) echoed the sentiment.

 Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Spacecraft Team and Fairing

Technicians and engineers working on the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite pose in front of the spacecraft in its protective nosecone, or payload fairing, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Once closed, the fairing will sit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, launching in late November 2020. Credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

About the size of a small pickup truck, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will play a central role in efforts to track sea level rise caused by climate change. What’s more, the data that it collects on sea level variations near coastlines will provide information to support coastal management and with planning for floods, while its atmospheric measurements will enhance weather and hurricane forecasts.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is one of two identical satellites that are a part of the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, a U.S.-European collaboration. The mission is part of Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation program managed by the European Commission. Continuing the legacy of the Jason series missions, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will extend the records of sea level into their fourth decade, collecting accurate measurements of sea surface height for more than 90% of the world’s oceans, and providing crucial information for operational oceanography, marine meteorology, and climate studies. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich’s twin, Sentinel-6B, is scheduled to launch in 2025.

More About the Mission

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS is being jointly developed by ESA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with funding support from the European Commission and technical support from France’s National Centre for Space Studies.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, is contributing three science instruments for each Sentinel-6 satellite: the Advanced Microwave Radiometer, the Global Navigation Satellite System – Radio Occultation, and the Laser Retroreflector Array. 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 U.S. members of the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team.

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