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SpaceX deploys the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich scientific satellite

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket deployed the other week sent out satellites manufactured by the US and Europe for monitoring sea levels. The rocket took off from a launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base at midnight hours. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite that was playing guest in the space vehicle detached from the rocket an hour after takeoff.

This satellite will be the first in a pair of satellites that were developed by a group of organizations in the US and Europe to analyze the exact rising or dropping of the sea levels. These organizations include the European Space Agency, NASA, Eumetsat, the European Commission, and NOAA.

This space vehicle is going to mark the resumption of measurements that started over two decades ago. The first mission involved the TOPEX/Poseidon project, which operated for close to ten years before the Jason spacecraft replacement in 2001, followed by a similar replacement in 2008 and 2016 consecutively. Although these past projects involved the four mega agencies, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is an undertaking by only the ESA, NASA, and the EU.

ESA’s Sentinel-6 coordinator, Pierrik Vuilleumier, stated that it would be the joint venture between NASA and ESA to work on an Earth observation satellite. The two agencies are spending $500 million, including the development of the second Sentinel-6 satellite that they will deploy in 2025.

The space vehicle hosting this satellite is a development of Airbus Defence and Space in Germany. The vehicle has two identical solar panels erected on its top. This technology helps the vehicle receive power to run its operations effectively without vibrating in space to obtain the energy from motors. 

The primary instrument of the space vehicle is a radar altimeter developed by ESA. This instrument sends radio waves to the ocean, measuring the sea level and the speed of the water in the sea. The instrument will be working with the assistance of the microwave radiometer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This device measures water vapor in the atmosphere for rectification of the other measurements.

Additionally, the satellite will be measuring the atmospheric temperature and moisture by detecting signals from GPS and other non-stationary satellites. Moreover, the data collected from the satellite will reveal its orbital path at different altitudes from the Earth.

Scientists agreed to overshadow the advanced resolution images that the satellite records to pursue the measurement of sea level as accustomed from close to three decades ago. NASA’s director of the Earth Science department, Karen St. Germain, stated that they could not discard this practice since it generates crucial data for sea navigators and fishers.

In conclusion, the scientists explained that the rising sea level is alarming, and that’s why they have to monitor it with satellites to continually prepare for disasters. She noted that the ice sheets, glaciers, and mountain ice cappings are melting fast due to global warming.

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