NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are launching a new satellite that will map and monitor the world’s oceans to measure the effect of sea level rise.
The Copernicus Sentinel-6 satellite will be transported into space in November from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, said Josef Aschbacher, head of ESA’s Earth observation program.
“We need this satellite to understand the effects of rising levels on the planet’s seas,” he told an online news conference.
The mission, conducted in collaboration with the US space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), aims to accurately measure changes in sea levels.
Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be the first of two identical satellites to be launched sequentially to continue observations of sea level change.
Va fi the first satellite developed by ESA which will be driven into space with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket – the world’s first reusable orbital-class rocket.
How will the satellite work?
The satellite has the task of collecting sea level measurements with an accuracy of a few centimeters (for a single measurement) for more than 90% of the world’s oceans.
These measurements will be made during a repeated flight in the area of intense radiation, known as the South Atlantic Anomaly, which may interfere with the electronic equipment on board.
Therefore, engineers and researchers subjected the satellite to a series of tests to ensure that the spacecraft will survive the launch and the harsh environment of space.
To accurately measure extremely small sea level changes, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will rely on a suite of three instruments that provide scientists with information to determine the exact position of the spacecraft in orbit.
An animation provided by NASA shows the radar pulse from the altimeter of the Sentinel-6 satellite Michael Freilich that is reflected on the surface of the sea to measure the height of the ocean.
How are the measurements made?
The satellite will use two instruments that work together to determine sea level and a third that collects atmospheric data.
The Poseidon-4 radar altimeter measures the height of the ocean by repelling radar pulses from the surface of the water and by calculating the time it takes for the signal to return to the satellite.
However, water vapor in the atmosphere affects the propagation of radar pulses in the altimeter, which can make the ocean appear higher or lower than it actually is. This effect is corrected using an instrument called the Advanced Climate Microwave Radiometer (AMR-C), which measures the amount of water vapor between the spacecraft and the ocean.
Given the challenges and objectives of the mission, the name of the satellite is completely appropriate, as it is named after researcher Dr. Michael Freilich, former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division.
A second spaceship identical to Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to continue the measurements after the primary mission, carried out over 5 and a half years, will end.