The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent a new NASA and European Space Agency satellite to orbit from California on Saturday morning. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freelich satellite is the latest in a series of satellites providing important data about sea level rise and climate change for nearly three decades. It is named after Michael Freelich, former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, who is considered a pioneer in doing oceanographic work from orbit.
The new ocean-detective bird will be able to measure sea levels within a few centimeters for 90% of the oceans worldwide. According to NASA, a twin satellite called Sentinel-6B will join the effort to launch in 2025. Instruments on the new satellites will also provide data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasting.
The mission began with a fairly rare launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the west coast of the US. Several sound booms could be heard in Santa Barbara, Ventura and parts of San Luis Obispo, California, a week before a statement from Vandenberg as Falcon 9 first stage returned to landing after lifting the satellite into orbit. .
The loud boom could be heard in the mission webcast just before making a successful landing ashore just a short distance from the launch pad of Falcon 9’s first stage. See the feed for yourself below.
This is the start of a very busy day for SpaceX, which plans to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites from Florida.