SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA satellite into orbit to measure sea level for the next 30 years, then returns to California in a stunning landing
- SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite took off from California on Saturday
- It took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 and curved south across the Pacific Ocean
- Rocket then released the US-European satellite that will measure sea level rise over three decades
- Dramatic video shows the Falcon’s first stage flies back to the launch site and lands perfectly for reuse
A US-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of the global sea surface was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the satellite fired off Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. and flew south over the Pacific Ocean.
The Falcon’s first stage flew back to the launch site and landed for reuse.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket can be seen taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning above
The missile carried a joint US-European satellite that will monitor ocean levels over the next three decades
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was released from the second stage about an hour later.
It then deployed its solar panels and made first contact with controllers.
Named for a former NASA official who played a key role in the development of oceanography in space, the satellite’s main instrument is a high-precision radar altimeter that reflects energy off the sea’s surface as it floats over Earth’s oceans.
An identical twin, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure continuity of the record.
A camera attached to the missile shows it above the launch point above Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
The rocket took off and curved south across the Pacific Ocean on Saturday morning
Video from NASA shows Sentinel-6 satellite Michael Freilich being released into orbit above Earth
The Sentinel 6 program consists of two identical satellites, with the first (seen in the above view) launched on this mission, they will track the change in sea level from space
Sea level measurements in space have been uninterrupted since the 1992 launch of the US-French satellite TOPEX-Poseidon, which was tracked by a series of satellites, including the current Jason-3.
The elevation of the sea surface is affected by the heating and cooling of water, allowing scientists to use the altimeter data to detect weather influences such as warm El Nino and cool La Nina.
The measurements are also important for understanding overall sea level rise due to global warming, which scientists warn pose a risk to the world’s coastlines and billions of people.
“Our Earth is a system of intimately linked dynamics between land, ocean, ice, atmosphere and of course our human communities, and that system is changing,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, in a pre -launch. briefing Friday.
“Because 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is made up of the ocean, the oceans play a huge role in how the entire system changes,” she said.
The new satellite is expected to have unprecedented accuracy.
The Falcon 9 missile then successfully landed back on the launch pad for reuse
The dramatic image above shows the first stage booster returning to a rosy landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday.
Europe and the United States share the $ 1.1 billion cost of the mission, including the dual satellite
“This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,” Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s director of Earth observation, told The Associated Press this week.
“We know that sea levels are rising,” Aschbacher said.
The big question is how much, how fast.
Other onboard instruments measure how radio signals pass through the atmosphere and provide atmospheric temperature and humidity data that can help improve global weather forecasts.
Europe and the United States share the $ 1.1 billion cost of the mission, including the dual satellite.