NASA has a new satellite that it intends to launch this November called Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich. The primary focus for the satellite will be to monitor sea-level rise with extreme precision. Another instrument aboard the spacecraft will provide atmospheric data that will help improve weather forecasts, track hurricanes, and improve climate models.
NASA says that the fundamental goal with Sentinel-6 is to measure oceans, but it wants to add more value to the mission. The space agency says that it’s not every day that it gets to launch a satellite, and collecting more useful data about the oceans and the atmosphere is a bonus. Sentinel-6 is a US and European collaboration.
Sentinel-6 is one of two satellites that compose the Copernicus Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission. The twin satellite to Sentinel-6 is Sentinel-6B, which will launch in 2025, taking over from Signal-6. The spacecraft will join the TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason series of satellites, already gathering precise sea level measurements for over 30 years.
When in orbit, Sentinel-6 will collect sea level measurements down to the centimeter for 90 percent of the world’s oceans. The satellite will also look deep in the Earth’s atmosphere using GNSS-RO (Global Navigation Satellite System – Radio Occultation). GNSS-RO tracks radio signals from navigation satellites to measure the physical properties of the atmosphere.
It can do this because as a radio signal passes through the atmosphere, it slows, its frequency changes and its path bends. This is called refraction, and the effect can be used by scientists to measure minute changes in atmospheric properties, including density, temperature, and moisture content. The satellite is named after the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich.