December 1, 2020

Sentinel-6 satellite takes off to monitor the seas


A recreation of a satellite orbiting the Earth.

A recreation of a satellite orbiting the Earth.
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The satelite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, what monitor changes in sea level and other data related to weather, took off successfully this Saturday aboard a rocket from the Vandenberg US Air Force Base in California (United States).

The Euro-American satellite, linked to the European Earth observation program Copernicus, is capable of mapping 95% of the ice-free ocean every ten days, data that may be crucial to combat the climate crisis.

The launch took place at the scheduled time, 9:17 local (17:17 GMT), and aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket, the reusable part of which successfully landed vertically a few minutes later.

The project participated European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumesat), the POT and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The launch came five days after the failure of two European missions, the Spanish Seosat-Ingenio and the French Taranis. when the Vega rocket failed only eight minutes after takeoff that was transporting them (Arianespace, operator of the Vega, spoke of “human error” after their first investigations).

Sentinel-6 is the first of two identical satellites that will offer key measurements of changes in sea level – the second will be launched five years later.

This new project takes over as a radar altimetry reference mission, continuing with the long-term record of sea surface height measurements which started the French-American Topex Poseidon satellite in 1992 and later the Jason series missions.

Sea level rise is one of the greatest threats facing the planet as a result of climate change, recalls ESA.

Satellite data show that the global average sea level has risen just over 3 millimeters a year since 1993 and, more worryingly, the rate of increase has accelerated in recent years.

Sentinel-6 will not only continue with this reference record for climate studies, but will also measure the height of sea level with “unprecedented precision”, according to the ESA website.

Thus, once safely in orbit, the satellite, when map 95% of the planet’s ice-free ocean every ten days, will provide crucial information for operational oceanography and climatology.

In addition to mapping sea surface height to understand long-term changes, Sentinel-6 will provide data for practical operational applications.

For example, the mission will measure significant wave height and wind speed, data used to make real-time ocean predictions that can be used for sustainable management of marine resources, coastal management, and environmental protection or the fishing industry. .

“Sentinel-6 will be essential to understand the changes our planet is undergoing and its effects. Millions of people are exposed to the risk posed by rising sea levels “, explains Mònica Roca, director of isardSAT, a Spanish company that has participated in the project.

According to this expert, with this project it will be possible, among others, to extract knowledge about which populations are the ones that will be affected by the rise in sea level or the erosion suffered by the coastline around the world.

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