NASA launching new satellite to study sea level rise

James Marshall
November 21, 2020

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, lifted off at 12:17 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 4 East at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. The Falcon's first stage flew back to the launch site and landed for reuse.

In this Thursday, May 30, 2013 file photo Michael Freilich, director of NASA's earth science division, center, signs a ceremonial document turning over operational control of the Landsat 8 satellite to the U.S. Geological Survey at the USGS EROS Center north of Sioux Falls.

"We know that the sea level will continue to rise during the next century", explains Alain Rattier, Director General of the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat).

This is a two-pronged mission and a twin satellite, Sentinel-6B, which will be launched in 2025. "So in high tides we've been seeing more flooding as the levels have been rising", NOAA's Sentinel-6 program scientist told PIX11 News.

The spacecraft itself, weighing 1,192 kilograms at launch, was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Germany. That design is meant to maximize the power they can provide without requiring the use of deployable arrays and motors than can induce vibrations in the spacecraft.

Sea surface heights are affected by heating and cooling of water, allowing scientist to use the altimeter data to detect such weather-influencing conditions as the warm El Nino and the cool La Nina. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the agency's contribution to the mission. "Instruments aboard the satellites will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, climate models, and hurricane tracking", NASA said in a statement late on Friday. That instrument is similar to those on the six COSMIC-2 satellites launched in June 2019. This mission is to follow 30 years of continuous measurements by spacecraft that orbit Earth.

"Global warming is really ocean warming", Willis said.

While the spacecraft features improved resolution and precision compared to its predecessors, scientists emphasized the importance of continuing a series of measurements of sea level height dating back almost three decades.

"NASA is our strongest partner internationally", he said. The present ocean level ascent is near 5 millimeters every year, more than twofold the yearly ascent rate graphed during the 1990s.

That satellite data has shown that sea levels are not only rising, but also that the rate of increase is accelerating.

A "climate guardian" satellite set for launching this weekend will greatly help scientists keep track of the rise in sea levels, one of the most daunting effects of global warming, a senior official at the European Space Agency said Friday.

" This failure on Monday reminded us how risky the space business is", Aschbacher said. "The climate is changing". "And we need to understand how this planet functions for our own survival, for our own future". Frillish died in August.

Should Saturday's launch need to be delayed for any reason, there are backup launch windows on each subsequent day, beginning 12 minutes earlier each day, according to NASA.

"We owe him a lot and he more than deserves to have this satellite named after him", said Aschbacher.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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