Central and South Coast residents could have a spectacular, front row seat this weekend to the launch of a satellite intended to help us learn more about the impacts of climate change.
The Sentinel-6 satellite is a global project involving a half dozen organizations including the European Space Agency and NASA.
The unmanned craft set for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday morning will allow precision monitoring of the world’s oceans, giving researchers key data on sea level rise.
The satellite looks like a flying barn, with solar panels making up what looks like roof on a pentagon shaped craft. It’s covered with antennas for different type of sensing equipment. The satellite is expected to advance the world’s ocean monitoring capability. It will allow the precise measurement of sea level in different parts of the world.
The launch is set for 9:17 Saturday morning. If weather conditions are clear, the liftoff via a Falcon-9 SpaceX rocket should be visible along much of the Central and South Coasts.
The craft is the first of two similar ocean monitoring satellites. Its twin is planned for launch in 2025. They are the latest in a fleet of satellites helping us monitor the Earth. The European Space Agency alone has 15 in operation, and 40 in development.
The full name is the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite. It has special meaning for scientists around the world. The late researcher was Director of Nasa’s Earth Science Division, who fought for programs to create, and launch satellite capable of monitoring the ocean.