SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA satellite into orbit to measure sea level for next 30 years, then returns to California in stunning landing
- SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Sentinel-6 satellite Michael Freilich took off from California on Saturday
- It took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. and arched southward over the Pacific Ocean.
- Rocket then released the US-European satellite that will measure sea level rise over three decades.
- Dramatic video shows the Falcon’s first stage returning to the launch site and landing perfectly for reuse
A US-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of global sea surface heights was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. and arced south over the Pacific Ocean.
The Falcon’s first stage returned to the launch site and landed for reuse.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen above taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning
The rocket carried a joint US-European satellite that will monitor sea levels for the next three decades.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite exited the second stage about an hour later.
He then deployed his solar panels and made initial contact with the controllers.
Named after a former NASA official who played a key role in the development of space oceanography, the satellite’s primary instrument is an extremely accurate radar altimeter that will bounce energy off the surface of the sea sweeping the oceans of the Earth.
An identical twin, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure the continuity of the record.
A camera attached to the rocket shows it above the launch point above Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
The rocket lifted off and then arched south over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday morning
NASA video shows Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite orbiting above Earth
The Sentinel 6 program is made up of two identical satellites, with the first (seen in the render above) launched on this mission, they will monitor the evolution of sea level from space.
Space measurements of sea level have not been interrupted since the launch in 1992 of the American-French TOPEX-Poseidon satellite, followed by a series of satellites including the current Jason-3.
Sea surface heights are affected by the heating and cooling of the water, allowing scientists to use elevation data to detect weather conditions such as hot El Nino and cool La Nina.
The measurements are also important for understanding the global rise in sea level due to global warming which scientists say poses a risk to the world’s coasts and billions of people.
“ Our Earth is a system of interrelated dynamics between land, ocean, ice, atmosphere and of course our human communities, and that system is changing, ” said Karen St. Germain, Director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, during a pre-launch. briefing Friday.
“Because 70% of the Earth’s surface is oceans, the oceans play a huge role in how the whole system changes,” she said.
The new satellite is expected to have unprecedented precision.
The Falcon 9 rocket then successfully landed on the launch pad for reuse.
The dramatic image above shows the recall of the first floor returning to a target landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. On Saturday.
Europe and the United States share the $ 1.1 billion cost of the mission, which includes the dual satellite
“This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,” Josef Aschbacher, director of earth observation at the European Space Agency, said this week.
“We know the sea level is rising,” Aschbacher said.
The big question is, by how much, how fast.
Other on-board instruments will 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 dual satellite.