SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA satellite into orbit to measure sea level over the next 30 years and then returns to California in a stunning landing
- SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite exploded from California on Saturday
- It took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 and arched south across the Pacific Ocean
- Rocket then released the US-European satellite, which will measure the rise in sea levels over three decades
- Dramatic video shows Falcon’s first stage flying back to the launch site and landing perfectly for recycling
A US-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of global sea level elevations was launched into Earth’s orbit from California on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the satellite exploded from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 and arched south across the Pacific Ocean.
Falcon’s first stage flew back to the launch site and landed for recycling.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen above at takeoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning
The rocket carried a common US-European satellite that will monitor sea levels over the next three decades
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was released from the second phase about an hour later.
It then installed its solar panels and made first contact with controllers.
The satellite’s main instrument is named after a former NASA official who played a key role in the development of space-based oceanography, and is an extremely accurate radar altimeter that will bounce energy from sea level as it sweeps across Earth’s oceans.
An identical twin, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure continuity in the post.
A camera attached to the rocket shows it over the starting point above Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
The rocket took off and then curved south across the Pacific Ocean Saturday morning
Video from NASA shows Sentinel 6 satellite Michael Freilich being released into Earth orbit
The Sentinel 6 program consists of two identical satellites, the first of which (seen in the above version) launches on this mission, they will monitor the sea level change from space
Space-based sea level measurements have been uninterrupted since the launch in 1992 of the US-French satellite TOPEX-Poseidon, which was followed by a number of satellites including the current Jason-3.
Sea level elevations are affected by heating and cooling of water, allowing the scientist to use the altimeter data to detect such weather-affecting conditions as the warm El Nino and the cool La Nina.
The measurements are also important to understand the overall rise in sea level due to global warming, which scientists warn is a risk to the world’s coastlines and billions of people.
‘Our earth is a system of intricately connected dynamics between land, sea, ice, atmosphere and, of course, our human society, and this system is changing,’ said Karen St. Germain, NASA’s Earth Science Division director, in a pre-launch briefing Friday.
‘Because 70 percent of the earth’s surface is ocean, oceans play a huge role in how the entire system changes,’ she said.
The new satellite is expected to have an unprecedented accuracy.
The Falcon 9 rocket then landed a successful landing back on the launch pad for recycling
The dramatic image above shows the first stage booster returning to a bullseye landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday
Europe and the United States share the costs of 1.1 billion. $ To the mission, which includes the twin satellite
‘This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,’ Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s director for Earth observation, told the Associated Press this week.
‘We know the sea level is rising,’ Aschbacher said.
The big question is how much, how fast.
Other instruments on board measure how radio signals pass through the atmosphere, and provide data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that can help improve global weather forecasts.
Europe and the United States share the costs of 1.1 billion. $ To the mission, which includes the twin satellite.