The Michael Freilich Sentinel-6 satellite is scheduled to launch this Saturday as the next generation of spacecraft will be watching at sea level on our planet.
The joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on November 21 at 12:17 p.m. ET.
Once in orbit, the space shuttle satellite will track global sea level for five-and-a-half years from 830 miles above sea level.
For 30 years, satellites have helped monitor the world’s oceans. The satellite is the latest in the series, but it will gather the most accurate information on global sea levels and how it is responding to climate change.
Sentinel-6 has a higher resolution for collecting measurements, which means that it can track two major features, such as the Gulf, as well as smaller features such as coastal variability.
The satellite will gather information that can be used to improve weather forecasts, hurricane tracking and weather patterns, such as humidity and ambient temperature. Scientists can also use the data to predict areas where the coast may change.
This is a two-way mission and the twin satellites Sentinel-6B, which will be launched in 2025. At the same time, the twin satellites will follow the tradition of continuous monitoring of sea level rise in the fourth decade.
“This mission is a global collaboration that needs to study our planet because it belongs to all of us,” NASA Chief Scientific Officer Thomas Zurbuchen told a news conference Friday.
“To understand how climate change is meant for humans, science needs to take a long time to think. We do this together on behalf of the international community and that makes us stronger.”
The legacy of our world education
The mission was renamed earlier this year for Michael Freilich, NASA’s creator and director of the ocean sciences from 2006 to 2019. Freilich died in August. The satellite was named in his honor to commemorate Freilich’s contribution to Earth science and satellite geography, and to advances in space-based ocean measurements.
During a news conference on Friday, Zurbuchen reminded everyone of Freilich’s words and views on the importance of studying the world from space.
“Humans, not an organization, not a country, not a continent, but … humans have been tracking the world’s oceans from space with astonishing accuracy for over 28 years.”
The Sentinel-6 follows in the footsteps of the Jason-3 satellite, which was launched in 2016. It still continues to observe the world’s oceans.
Satellite duplication enables mission teams to ensure that they receive continuous information before the mission ends.
After launch, the Sentinel-6 will fly 30 seconds behind the Jason-3. The team will skip through the data on both satellites next year before the Jason-3 mission ends.
The long tradition of this sea-tracking satellite began with the release of the original Jason series and the previous generation TOPEX / Poseidon, which launched in 2001 and 1992, respectively.
It is part of Copernicus, the European Union’s World Exploration Program. This program maintains accurate data for altitudes of more than 90% of the world’s oceans. The data collected by the satellite’s chain has contributed to the study of climate, marine and oceanic meteorology.
Eyes on the ocean
Long-term, uninterrupted monitoring of global sea levels is key to understanding how our world responds to global warming and climate change. And as global sea levels rise, it is a clear indicator of global warming, according to climate experts.
Understanding global sea levels can help scientists track ocean currents as they transmit global warming. The effects of this flower can influence our climate.
Coasts are also changing in response to climate change. As the planet warms, the oceans absorb heat trapped by greenhouse gases, causing some of the expansion behind sea level to rise. Ice sheets and ice sheets contain most of the variation.
The rate of sea level rise has increased over the last 25 years, and it will continue to rise further. It is an important factor to watch out for because coastal flooding caused by storms can change populated areas.
Freilich acknowledged that the rising sea level will require the cooperation of people around the world to understand and resolve.
The agency set up a team of scientists on sea level change in 2014 to bring together people across NASA and other institutions to study maps, glaciers, oceanic movements and landslides to get the best picture of the effects of rising sea levels.
“We are united by this big goal,” Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, NASA’s project manager who led the team, said in a statement. “Sea levels are affected by these different factors that discipline does not cover – so we have to bring in experts from it from all angles.”
But the satellite could also provide a better understanding of how the Earth’s climate is changing as a whole, from the oceans to the atmosphere.