VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, California. – An American-European satellite designed to extend a decade-long measurement of global sea surface heights was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite flew from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 am and headed south into the Pacific Ocean. The first phase of the Falcon was returned to the launch site and landed for reuse.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freelich satellite was launched from the second stage about an hour later. It then deployed its solar panels and made first contact with the controllers.
Named for a former NASA official who was instrumental in the development of space-based oceanography, the satellite’s main device is a highly accurate radar altimeter, which will bounce energy off the surface of the ocean as it travels to Earth. Sweeps over oceans. An identical twin, the Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure the record’s continuity.
Space-based sea level measurements have been uninterrupted since the launch of the 1992 US-French satellite TOPEX-Poseidon, which was followed by a series of satellites, including the current Jason-3.
The elevation of the sea surface is influenced by the heating and cooling of the water, allowing the scientist to use altimeter data to detect weather-affecting conditions such as El Niño and Cool La Niña.
The measurements are also important for understanding the overall sea level due to global warming, with scientists warning that it is a risk to the world’s beaches and billions of people.
“Our Earth is a system of intricately connected dynamics between land, ocean, ice, atmosphere, and of course our human communities,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. Briefing on friday.
“Because the ocean is 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, how the entire system of oceans changes plays a big role.”
The new satellite is expected to have unprecedented accuracy.
“This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,” Joseph Ashbacher, director of the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation, told The Associated Press this week.
“We know that sea level is rising,” Sbchair said. The big question is, how much, how quickly.
Other instruments on board will measure how radio signals pass through the atmosphere, providing data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that can help improve global weather forecasting.
Europe and the United States are sharing the mission’s cost of $ 1.1 billion (900 million euros), including twin satellites.