A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA’s satellite into orbit to measure sea levels for the next 30 years and then returns to California at a stunning landing
- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried a Michael Freilich Sentinel-6 satellite away from California on Saturday
- It set off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 am and reached south over the Pacific
- Rocket then released the US-European satellite that will measure rising sea levels over three decades
- A dramatic video shows the first stage of the Falcon flying back to the launch site and landing perfectly for reuse
A US-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of sea-surface height globally to Earth’s orbit from California was launched on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite exploded from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 am and hit southbound over the Pacific Ocean.
The first phase of the Falcon flew back to the launch and landing site for reuse.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket above is seen taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning
The rocket was carrying a joint American-European satellite that will monitor ocean levels over the next three decades
Michael Freilich’s Sentinel-6 satellite was released from the second phase about an hour later.
He then used his solar panels and first contacted management.
Named for a former NASA official who played a key role in the development of space-based oceanography, the satellite’s main instrument is a highly accurate radar altimeter that will bounce energy off the ocean’s surface as it sweeps over the Earth’s oceans .
An identical twin, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure the continuation of the record.
A camera attached to the rocket shows it above the launch point over Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
The rocket started and then headed south over the Pacific on Saturday morning
Video from NASA shows Michael Freilich’s Sentinel-6 satellite being released into orbit above Earth
The Sentinel 6 program features two identical satellites, with the first (seen in the rendering above) launching on this mission, they will monitor sea level change from space
Space-based sea level measurements have been continuous since the 1992 launch of the US-France TOPEX-Poseidon satellite, followed by a series of satellites including the current Jason-3.
The height and surface of seawater are affected by heating and cooling water, allowing a scientist to use the altimeter data to detect weather-influenced conditions with the warm El Nino and the cool La Nina.
The measurements are also important for understanding a general rise in sea level due to global warming which scientists warn is a risk to the world’s coasts and billions of people.
‘Our Earth is a system of dynamics that has a complex connection between land, ocean, ice, atmosphere and also of course our human communities, and that system is changing,’ says Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, at a pre-launch briefing Friday.
‘Because 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface is ocean, the oceans play a huge role in how the whole system changes,’ he said.
The new satellite is expected to have unprecedented accuracy.
He then landed a Falcon 9 rocket back successfully on the launch pad for reuse
The dramatic image above shows the first-stage booster returning to a bullseye wharf at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday
Europe and the United States share the $ 1.1 billion cost of the mission, which includes the twin satellite
‘This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,’ Josef Aschbacher, director of the European Space Agency’s Earth observation, told The Associated Press this week.
‘We know that sea level is rising,’ said Aschbacher.
The big question is, how much, how fast.
Other instruments on board the ship measure how radio signals pass through the atmosphere, providing data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that can help improve global weather forecasts.
Europe and the United States share the $ 1.1 billion cost of the mission, which includes the twin satellite.