Watch Live: Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch

Sentinel-6 Satellite Over California

Sentinel-6 Satellite Over California. The Copernicus Sentinel-6 is taking on the role of radar altimetry reference mission, continuing the long-term record of measurements of sea-surface height started in 1992 by the French–US Topex Poseidon and then the Jason series of satellite missions. While Sentinel-6 is one of the European Union’s family of Copernicus satellite missions, its implementation is the result of a unique cooperation between ESA, Eumetsat, NASA and NOAA. The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission comprises two identical satellites launched five years apart. The first, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, launches on November 21, 2020, from the Space Launch Complex 4 East at the Vandenberg Air Force Base near the city of Lompoc in California, US. Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

Watch the launch of the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-monitoring satellite on ESA Web TV on Saturday, November 21 from 17:45 CET (08:45 PST).

Also available at NASA Live.

A joint European-US satellite built to monitor sea-level change, the satellite will liftoff atop a Space X Falcon 9 rocket on 21 November at 17:17 GMT (18:17 CET, 09:17 PST) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. The weather will be monitored constantly until the precise moment of liftoff to determine whether or not to authorize the launch.

Sentinel-6 SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

This illustration shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s nose cone, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside, shortly before launch. Credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechSpaceX

Join as experts from all partners in the mission, as well as data users and beneficiaries, discuss details regarding the mission.

Key events after launch (times approximate):

2 minutes and 16 seconds after launch: main engine cut off, second stage separation and then second-engine Start 1 will occur in quick succession. Reusable Falcon 9 first stage then begins its automated boost-back to the launch site for a powered landing.

3 minutes: After protecting the satellite as the rocket traveled through the atmosphere, the launch vehicle’s nose cone will separate and jettisoned.

8 minutes: Stage-II engine cut-off.

53 minutes: Stage-II first restart for a 15 second burn, followed by Stage-II engine cut-off.

58 minutes: launch vehicle and satellite separation.

1 hour and 7 minutes: satellite begins solar panel deployment.

1 hour and 33 minutes: planned first contact for satellite telemetry downlink by ground stations in Alaska.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite Radar Pulse

This animation shows the radar pulse from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite’s altimeter bouncing off the sea surface in order to measure the height of the ocean. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Charting sea level

The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is the first of two identical satellites to provide critical measurements of sea-level change.

Once safely in orbit, the satellite will continue the long-term record of reference sea-surface height measurements and extend the records of sea level into its fourth decade. The satellite will map 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days and provide crucial information for operational oceanography and climate studies.

Since sea-level rise is a key indicator of climate change, accurately monitoring the changing height of the sea surface over decades is essential for climate science, for policy-making, and for protecting those in low-lying regions at risk.

The satellite was renamed in honor of Michael H. Freilich, the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. The mission is a collaboration between ESA, the European Commission, EUMETSAT, NASA and NOAA, with support from the French space agency CNES.

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