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Worldwide satellite tv for pc launches to increase measurements of sea degree rise – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Pressure Base with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite tv for pc. Credit score: SpaceX

A European-built satellite tv for pc with the bizarre form of a home launched into orbit Saturday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Central Coast, carrying a complicated radar altimeter to measure rising sea ranges on our house planet.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich statement satellite tv for pc lifted off at 9:17:08 a.m. PST (12:17:08 p.m. EST; 1717:08 GMT) Saturday from House Launch Complicated Four-East at Vandenberg Air Pressure Base round 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

Flying towards the south-southeast, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket hauled the satellite tv for pc into orbit on SpaceX’s first mission from the West Coast launch web site since June 2019.

Lower than two-and-a-half minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster indifferent and fired chilly gasoline thrusters to flip round and fly tail first. A lift-back burn and entry burn by a subset of the rocket’s Merlin engines guided the Falcon 9 booster again towards Vandenberg.

The supersonic return maneuvers culminated in a touchdown burn by the rocket’s heart engine. 4 touchdown legs unfurled simply earlier than landing because the 15-story booster settled to a bullseye touchdown at SpaceX’s rocket restoration facility at Vandenberg Air Pressure Base about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

The profitable touchdown marked the third time SpaceX has returned a Falcon 9 booster to the onshore touchdown web site at Vandenberg, and the 66th restoration of a Falcon booster total.

The rocket’s higher stage continued firing its single Merlin to achieve a parking orbit round Earth, then reignited the engine for about 10 seconds to circularize its orbit earlier than separation of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc round 58 minutes after launch.

Dwell video from the Falcon 9’s higher stage confirmed the two,628-pound (1,192-kilogram) spacecraft flying freed from the rocket over the Indian Ocean.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc was constructed by Airbus in Germany and is the scale of a small pickup truck. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich carries a radar altimeter, a microwave radiometer, and devices to exactly find the satellite tv for pc in orbit. Working collectively, the devices will monitor adjustments in sea degree down to a couple centimeters.

The mission is a partnership between NASA, the European House Company, Eumetsat, and NOAA. The European Fee — the EU’s govt arm — and the French house company CNES additionally offered help to the mission.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc is called for the previous head of NASA’s Earth science division, who died of most cancers earlier this 12 months.

“Congratulations to everybody that made at present’s launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc potential!” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “A becoming tribute to an unimaginable trailblazer in Earth science.”

Floor groups on the European House Operations Heart in Germany obtained the primary alerts from the brand new oceanography satellite tv for pc about an hour-and-a-half after liftoff, whereas the spacecraft sailed over a floor station in Alaska. Controllers confirmed the satellite tv for pc prolonged its power-generating photo voltaic panels, and the spacecraft seemed to be in fine condition in a first-look well being evaluation.

Preliminary information confirmed the Falcon 9 rocket positioned the satellite tv for pc into an orbit very near the mission’s goal altitude of 830 miles (1,336 kilometers). The launcher aimed to inject the spacecraft in an orbit inclined about 66 levels to the equator, the identical orbital aircraft the place a predecessor oceanography satellite tv for pc named Jason three flies.

Rising sea ranges are one consequence of local weather change. Knowledge from earlier satellites present the speed of sea degree rise is accelerating, based on mission scientists.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the following in a collection of oceanography missions monitoring sea degree rise, starting with the U.S.-French Topex/Poseidon mission that launched in 1992. The Jason 1, Jason 2, and Jason three satellites adopted Topex/Poseidon, and an an identical satellite tv for pc to Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich named Sentinel-6B is deliberate for launch in 2025 to additional lengthen the info document of sea degree rise.

The Topex/Poseidon and Jason satellites have charted about three.5 inches (9 centimeters) of world sea degree rise during the last 30 years, stated Remko Scharroo, Sentinel-6 venture scientist at Eumetsat.

The price of the 2 Sentinel-6 missions is roughly $1 billion, and was evenly divided between the U.S. and European companion companies, based on Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission directorate.

“It’s the satellite tv for pc so good we constructed it twice,” stated Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 venture scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The document of world sea degree rise truly goes again to the early ’90s,” Willis stated. “What’s fascinating about it’s that you would be able to see the speed of rise is definitely growing. Within the ’90s, sea degree was rising at about 2 millimeters per 12 months. Within the 2000s, it was extra like three millimeters per 12 months, and now it’s extra like Four or shut to five millimeters per 12 months. So we’re watching the speed of sea degree rise improve proper earlier than our very eyes, and it’s satellites like this that permit us to do it.”

Artist’s idea of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc. Credit score: ESA/ATG medialab

Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6 mission scientist at ESA, stated rising sea ranges “threaten main cities with elevated flooding, together with New York, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and extra. It’s estimated that about 2 to three million extra individuals are uncovered for each 1 millimeter rise in sea degree.”

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the eighth satellite tv for pc to launch for the European Copernicus constellation, a fleet of orbiting sentinels observing Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, ice sheets, and ambiance with radar, optical, microwave, altimetry, and spectral devices. The European Fee manages the Copernicus program, with ESA offering technical experience and coordinating improvement of the Sentinel satellites.

A main aim of the Copernicus satellites is to gather information on Earth’s altering local weather. The fleet is probably the most succesful satellite tv for pc program targeted on Earth statement. Knowledge from the Sentinel satellites are distributed worldwide freed from cost.

“We see proof of this dramatic change in many alternative measurements and occasions around the globe, however all of them level in the identical route — the Earth is warming,” Donlon stated in a pre-launch information convention. “And the best indicator of this Earth system imbalance is sea degree rise. That’s as a result of it integrates the overall impression of world warming. That’s dominated by the ice sheets melting, the thermal enlargement of the ocean water, and adjustments in terrestrial water storage.”

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft carries a European dual-frequency Poseidon Four radar altimeter that transmits alerts towards the ocean floor greater than 800 miles beneath the satellite tv for pc. A receiver measures the time it takes for the sign to bounce off the ocean and return to the satellite tv for pc.

A microwave radiometer offered by NASA measures atmospheric properties that may introduce minuscule results on the journey time of the radar altimeter sign, permitting scientists to appropriate for the perturbations and procure a extra exact measurement of sea degree.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich additionally carries devices to assist decide its precise location utilizing GPS navigation alerts, Doppler measurements, and laser monitoring.

This chart illustrates the ocean degree rise noticed by satellites for the reason that early 1990s. Credit score: NASA

The satellite tv for pc can even measure wave peak and derive wind pace estimates by observing the roughness of the ocean floor. It is going to cowl about 95 % of the world’s oceans each 10 days.

The bizarre house-like form of the spacecraft itself can also be an vital think about its efficiency. Engineers designed it for simplicity, and its lack of articulating photo voltaic array wings and different constructions “makes for a really steady satellite tv for pc design, which is basically vital for a satellite tv for pc altimeter mission,” Donlon stated.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will take its measurements with larger decision than earlier satellites taking a look at sea degree rise. Which means the brand new satellite tv for pc will have the ability to higher see how rising sea ranges are impacting coastlines.

Eumetsat will take over common operations of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich for its deliberate five-and-a-half 12 months mission after it completes a three-day activation timeline.

Floor groups will maneuver Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich into place flying about 140 miles, or 230 kilometers, behind the Jason three satellite tv for pc — which launched in 2016 — for a few 12 months’s price of cross-calibration to make sure the brand new spacecraft supplies the identical dependable information as its predecessor.

Sentinel-6B will exchange Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich after it launches in 2025, extending the ocean degree rise information document by way of at the least 2030.

SpaceX tentatively plans to reuse first stage that flew with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission Saturday on the corporate’s subsequent launch of a NASA spacecraft from Vandenberg subsequent July, NASA launch director Tim Dunn stated in a latest interview with Spaceflight Now.

On that flight, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at, or DART, mission from Vandenberg. It is going to mark the primary time a NASA science mission has launched on a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster.

DART is scheduled for launch in a window opening July 2021, permitting the probe to achieve its asteroid goal in late 2022. DART will deliberately crash right into a tiny moonlet orbiting asteroid Didymos to check out deflection strategies that scientists might use to maneuver an asteroid off a collision course with Earth.

Dunn stated NASA’s Launch Companies Program, which manages launch procurement and preparations for NASA science missions, has accredited the rocket reuse plan for the DART mission, pending post-flight inspections and refurbishment on the booster after the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission.

NASA has already accredited launches of SpaceX’s Dragon house station cargo ships on previously-flown Falcon 9 boosters, and the company earlier this 12 months agreed to launch Crew Dragon astronaut missions on reused rockets starting with the following SpaceX crew flight in March 2021.

One caveat to the booster’s future is its potential use as a backup for the SpaceX Crew-2 mission in March. Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate, stated final week that the Falcon 9 first stage from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission might be a backup for the Crew-2 launch if issues come up with the first rocket assigned to astronaut mission.

NASA and SpaceX have agreed to make use of the identical booster for the Crew-2 launch that despatched the Crew-1 mission towards the Worldwide House Station on Nov. 15. That stage landed on a SpaceX drone ship within the Atlantic Ocean and returned to Cape Canaveral on Thursday with a lean after it apparently slid throughout the deck of the vessel in excessive winds or tough seas.

The booster in any other case seemed to be in fine condition, and SpaceX offloaded the rocket from the drone ship for transport to a hangar at Cape Canaveral for inspection and refurbishment.

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Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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