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 classy radar altimeter to measure rising sea ranges on our residence 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 Advanced 4-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 fuel 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 general.
Right here’s a replay of the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Pressure Base, California, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite tv for pc.
Persevering with protection: https://t.co/dseXmjGEGn pic.twitter.com/V0Cd2cjIGx
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) November 21, 2020
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.
Reside 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 observe modifications in sea degree down to some centimeters.
The mission is a partnership between NASA, the European House Company, Eumetsat, and NOAA. The European Fee — the EU’s government arm — and the French house company CNES additionally supplied help to the mission.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc is known as for the previous head of NASA’s Earth science division, who died of most cancers earlier this yr.
“Congratulations to everybody that made as we speak’s launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc attainable!” 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 acquired 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 gave the impression 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 3 flies.
Falcon 9 has landed! The model new booster that launched the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite tv for pc has returned to a bullseye touchdown on California’s Central Coast.
This marks the third touchdown of a Falcon 9 booster at Vandenberg.https://t.co/dseXmjGEGn pic.twitter.com/gUwfqwPXsU
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) November 21, 2020
Rising sea ranges are one consequence of local weather change. Knowledge from earlier satellites present the speed of sea degree rise is accelerating, in response to mission scientists.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the following in a sequence 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 3 satellites adopted Topex/Poseidon, and an similar satellite tv for pc to Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich named Sentinel-6B is deliberate for launch in 2025 to additional prolong the information file of sea degree rise.
The Topex/Poseidon and Jason satellites have charted about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) of world sea degree rise over the past 30 years, mentioned Remko Scharroo, Sentinel-6 challenge 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 businesses, in response to Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission directorate.
“It’s the satellite tv for pc so good we constructed it twice,” mentioned Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 challenge scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The file of world sea degree rise truly goes again to the early ’90s,” Willis mentioned. “What’s fascinating about it’s you can see the speed of rise is definitely growing. Within the ’90s, sea degree was rising at about 2 millimeters per yr. Within the 2000s, it was extra like 3 millimeters per yr, and now it’s extra like 4 or shut to five millimeters per yr. 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.”
Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6 mission scientist at ESA, mentioned 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 environment with radar, optical, microwave, altimetry, and spectral devices. The European Fee manages the Copernicus program, with ESA offering technical experience and coordinating growth of the Sentinel satellites.
A major purpose 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 centered on Earth statement. Knowledge from the Sentinel satellites are distributed worldwide freed from cost.
“We see proof of this dramatic change in many various measurements and occasions all over the world, however all of them level in the identical path — the Earth is warming,” Donlon mentioned 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 full impression of world warming. That’s dominated by the ice sheets melting, the thermal enlargement of the ocean water, and modifications in terrestrial water storage.”
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft carries a European dual-frequency Poseidon 4 radar altimeter that transmits alerts towards the ocean floor greater than 800 miles under 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 supplied 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 acquire 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.
The satellite tv for pc will even measure wave top and derive wind velocity estimates by observing the roughness of the ocean floor. It can cowl about 95 p.c of the world’s oceans each 10 days.
The bizarre house-like form of the spacecraft itself can be an necessary consider its efficiency. Engineers designed it for simplicity, and its lack of articulating photo voltaic array wings and different buildings “makes for a really secure satellite tv for pc design, which is basically necessary for a satellite tv for pc altimeter mission,” Donlon mentioned.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will take its measurements with increased decision than earlier satellites taking a look at sea degree rise. Meaning the brand new satellite tv for pc will be capable of 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 yr 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 3 satellite tv for pc — which launched in 2016 — for a couple of yr’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 file via not less than 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 mentioned in a current interview with Spaceflight Now.
On that flight, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Check, or DART, mission from Vandenberg. It can 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 may use to maneuver an asteroid off a collision course with Earth.
Dunn mentioned NASA’s Launch Companies Program, which manages launch procurement and preparations for NASA science missions, has permitted 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 permitted launches of SpaceX’s Dragon house station cargo ships on previously-flown Falcon 9 boosters, and the company earlier this yr 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 attainable use as a backup for the SpaceX Crew-2 mission in March. Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate, mentioned final week that the Falcon 9 first stage from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission may very well 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 gave the impression 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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