A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a sophisticated ocean-mapping satellite tv for pc into orbit for NASA and the European House Company Saturday (Nov. 21) in a shocking morning launch from California.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 leapt off the pad from House Launch Advanced 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Power Base at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST/1717 GMT). It is payload: the oceanography satellite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich developed by U.S. and European area and climate businesses.
The launch marked SpaceX’s SpaceX 22nd Falcon 9 this 12 months. About 9 minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage returned to terra firma, capping off the flight with a profitable touchdown.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc is named for Michael Freilich, the previous head of NASA’s Earth science division who died of most cancers in August. NASA and ESA named the satellite tv for pc after Freilich in January earlier than his dying, a uncommon honor for a dwelling scientist. Freilich’s household watched the launch in individual, with son Daniel and daughter Sarah (with Freilich’s child granddaughter Rosie) remembering their father after liftoff.
Constructed by Airbus in Germany, the satellite tv for pc is roughly the scale of a small pickup truck and carries a number of devices to trace adjustments in sea degree all the way down to just some centimeters. To measure sea ranges, they’ll beam electromagnetic alerts all the way down to the world’s oceans after which measure how lengthy it takes for them to bounce again.
Mission scientists defined that rising sea levels are only one consequence of local weather change, and information from earlier Earth-observing satellites present that the speed of sea degree rise is accelerating, so scientists need to have the ability to monitor it over an prolonged time frame.
This $97 million satellite tv for pc is the primary in what might be a pair of an identical ocean-focused satellites; the following, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025. Collectively they are going to proceed NASA’s three decade-long effort to doc rising sea ranges and can give scientists a extra exact view of the coastlines than ever earlier than.
The two,628-lb. (1,192 kilograms) satellite tv for pc follows within the footsteps of a number of different Earth science missions, including the Jason-3 satellite and the U.S.-French Topex/Poseidon mission that launched in 1992. From it’s orbital perch, the satellite tv for pc may have a major viewing location to measure the world’s oceans in nice element.
“The most effective entrance seat view on the oceans is from area,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of science at NASA, mentioned in a prelaunch science briefing Friday.
The Sentinel-6 satellite tv for pc will deploy from the Falcon 9 round 53 minutes into the mission.
Mapping the ocean
With the information collected by Sentinel-6, scientists all over the world will be capable to make higher-resolution observations of the ocean a lot nearer to shore. Which means extra exact climate forecasts may be made earlier than storms make landfall. When a giant storm develops over the ocean, the water buckles up. Satellites like Sentinel-6 are designed to detect that bubble of water rising and use that info for forecasts. The measurements is also used to find out how adjustments in sea degree close to coastlines may have an effect on ship navigation and business fishing.
Water expands when it heats up and we will see that with the rapidly melting glaciers and ice sheets. That water has to go someplace, and consequently tides are starting to creep additional inland. The encroaching water means flooding and storm surges enhance dramatically and develop into much more harmful, particularly when mixed with hurricanes and different pure disasters.
Within the 1990s, sea ranges have been rising at 2 millimeters per 12 months, and that rise has elevated to three millimeters per 12 months within the 2000s and now it is as much as a staggering 4-5 millimeters per 12 months, NASA scientists have mentioned.
“We’re watching the ocean ranges rise proper earlier than our very eyes,” mentioned Josh Wills challenge scientist at JPL through the Friday briefing. “These satellites enable us to try this.”
The mission’s suite of scientific devices consists of two high-precision altimeters. One in all which might measure adjustments within the top of the ocean’s floor to a decision of solely 0.75 inches (2 centimeters).
By monitoring such tiny adjustments on the floor, scientists can get a greater concept of underwater ocean currents all over the world.
Sentinel-6’s measurements might be essential to understanding what phenomena are inflicting rises in sure areas.
In the present day’s flight marks the primary time a SpaceX rocket launched from California in 17 months (the corporate launched the three-satellite Radarsat mission for Canada in July 2019). With the overwhelming majority of missions launching from Florida, SpaceX moved its second drone ship “Simply Learn the Directions” over the East Coast, which has enabled the corporate to maintain up a fast launch tempo.
Up to now this 12 months, SpaceX has launched a complete of 22 rockets in 2020 and efficiently recovered 66 boosters because it first started restoration efforts. Nearly all of the missions have been on the backs of its fleet of veteran rockets. SpaceX has a complete of 10 flight confirmed boosters in its arsenal, together with the newly returned Crew-1 booster (which launched four astronauts for NASA on Nov. 15) and the booster used on in the present day’’s flight. If all goes nicely with the inspections course of, the boosters might be ready for future missions.
In a swap from its typical drone ship catches, and since there isn’t a drone ship on the West Coast, SpaceX’’s first stage booster returned to land in the present day, marking the corporate’’s third land touchdown at its California amenities. The corporate warned locals that sonic booms could also be heard crackling overhead because the booster made its manner via the ambiance.
SpaceX recovered its first booster in 2015, however actually ramped up its restoration efforts in 2017 and started to frequently refly boosters. This 12 months, the corporate reached a brand new milestone, having flown three new boosters in comparison with 19 flight confirmed ones.
When the upgraded Falcon 9 block 5 booster debuted, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mentioned that the rocket was made to fly a minimum of 10 occasions with little to no refurbishment in between flights and as many as 100 occasions earlier than being retired. He additionally mentioned that finally the corporate needed to fly the identical booster twice in a 24-hour interval.
That milestone nonetheless hasn’’t occurred however the groups have discovered lots about streamlining inspection processes and have lowered the down time between flights from a number of months to solely a pair. The shortest time between flights thus far is slightly below two months. That file goes to booster B1060, which launched two astronauts to the International Space Station in Could, after which launched a communications satellite for South Korea’s military in July.
In the present day’s launch is first of two that SpaceX has deliberate for this weekend. If all goes as deliberate, the corporate will launch two rockets from two different coasts all in the identical weekend.
SpaceX is at the moment focusing on Sunday night (Nov. 22) at 9:56 p.m. EST (0256 GMT on Nov. 23) for the launch of a recent batch of Starlink web satellites. This can mark the 16th flight of the internet-beaming satellites thus far.
Observe Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb.