SpaceX is set to deploy the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite that will track rising sea levels across the world. The purpose of this mission, a joint-venture between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), is to help governments better prepare for natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
The satellite will lift off aboard a Falcon 9 booster that will launch from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on November 10.
What is the Sentinel-6 Mission?
The Sentinel-6 mission will consist in building two identical satellites: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, named after researcher Dr. Michael Freilich, ex-director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. The Sentinel-6B is scheduled for launch in 2025.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be deployed 830 miles (1,336 kilometers) above Earth. It will collect sea-level measurements and will have on-board digital altimeters that can measure millimeter-scale changes in elevation. In general, altimeters are barometric, they measure altitude by calculating the target location’s air pressure.
The satellite will be able to collect sea-level measurements for more than 90% of the world’s oceans. It will also release updated maps of the oceans every 10 days, enabling scientists to gather accurate data on how much rising sea levels are eroding coastlines.
According to NASA, the satellite is currently “undergoing final checks, including visual inspections, to make sure it’s fit to head into orbit.”
SpaceX and NASA: A Burgeoning Relationship
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has always been a firm proponent of sustainability. Although SpaceX is not the main protagonist of the Sentinel-6 mission, it is indirectly contributing to it.
Various space agencies are increasingly relying on SpaceX to provide payload solutions. The company is steadily becoming NASA’s primary contractor. The agency recently awarded it a contract worth approximately $53 million to demonstrate its Starship refueling capabilities in space.
SpaceX already holds NASA contracts valued at $3.04 billion for 20 International Space Station resupply flights. The company also has another contract for an undisclosed amount for at least six additional flights through 2024. SpaceX also holds a third NASA contract worth $2.6 billion to build and launch piloted Dragon spacecraft. The capsule already started ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS via the historic Crew Demo-2 mission.