Soon, it will be possible to tell the global ocean height once the Sentinel-6 Michael spacecraft reaches orbit. The launch is scheduled for November 10. The launch venue is California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the largest sea level satellite in the world arrived on September 24.
Ever since its arrival, the team is working non-stop to ensure that it is ready for the launch and the mission. For instance, it has been undergoing both visual inspections and final checks. Exposure to bone-rattling sounds and vibrations as it launches atop the Falcon 9 rocket will mark the beginning of this mission.
The purpose of this mission is to measure sea levels of over 90% of the global oceans. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will begin working once it is 830 miles equivalent to 1336 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The accuracy will be top-notch, with an error of at most a few centimeters.
It will be operating in harsh conditions such as flying through South Atlantic Anomaly. It is an area that can destroy electronics due to the intense radiation. However, researchers and engineers are subjecting the satellite to tests until they are sure that it can survive under such conditions.
For it to work as per the expectations, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has many lasers, global navigation satellites, and other sophisticated instruments. It is named after the renowned researcher Dr. Michael Freilich who was once the NASA’s Earth Science Division director. Many believe that the name is appropriate since the mission includes challenging goals.
In 2025, a launch of a similar spacecraft by the name Sentinel-6B will take place. The pair will form the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission. The agencies collaborating to make the mission successful include NASA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), ESA (the European Space Agency), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) is offering technical support, whereas the European Commission is giving funding support.
The provider of three instruments, namely the Laser Retroreflector Array, the Advanced Microwave Radiometer, and the Global Navigation Satellite System – Radio Occultation, is JPL. The role of NASA is also significant. It is in charge of the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team’s support, NASA science instruments, ground systems that operate them, the instrument’s data processors, and launch services.
With the spacecraft, collecting accurate ocean height data, humidity, and atmospheric temperature for decades with the right documentation will be a reality. It will be clear to note how climate change affects the rising of the oceans. Improved atmospheric and climate models and weather forecasts also become the order of the day. According to ESA Earth Observation Programs’ director Josef Aschbacher, it is a good foundation for further collaborations between the U.S. and Europe.