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SpaceX launches new NASA satellite and lands with a boom


Illustration of the Sentinel-6 / Michael Freilich satellite in orbit.


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent a new NASA and European Space Agency satellite on its way to orbit from California on Saturday morning. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is the latest in a series of satellites that have provided critical data on sea level rise and climate change for nearly three decades. It is named after the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, who is considered a pioneer in performing oceanography from orbit.

The new sea pioneer bird will be able to measure sea levels within a few centimeters for 90% of the world’s oceans. A twin satellite named Sentinel-6B will join the effort when it launches in 2025. Instruments on the new satellites will also provide atmospheric temperature and humidity data that help improve weather forecasts, according to NASA.

The mission began with the rather rare launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the west coast of the United States. A statement from Vandenberg earlier this week warned that more sound barriers could be heard in parts of California’s Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties as Falcon 9’s first stage returned to a landing after having lifted the satellite into orbit.

The loud booms could be heard on the mission’s webcast just before the first phase of the Falcon 9 made a successful landing ashore just a short distance from the launch pad. Check out the feed for yourself below.

This is just the beginning of a very busy day for SpaceX, which is also planning to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites from Florida.

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