SpaceX rocket blasts UK-backed ‘sea cartographer’ satellite into orbit

A satellite that will allow British scientists to measure sea levels has been launched into space on a SpaceX rocket.

Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was successfully sent into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from a launch pad in California.

Sentinel-6, which is the size of a small 4×4 car, will orbit Earth from 830 miles up, collecting ocean data said to be vital for monitoring climate change.

The information will be analysed by the UK’s climate and ocean experts, including those from the Met Office and National Oceanography Centre, to help predict what global sea levels might look like in the future.

The SpaceX rocket launching Sentinel-6 into space. Credit NASA
Image: The SpaceX rocket launching Sentinel-6 into space on Friday afternoon. Credit NASA

Climate change is contributing to sea level changes by warming the planet and causing the world’s glaciers and polar ice caps to melt.

Sea levels have risen by an average of just over 3mm every year since 1993, although this has accelerated over the last few years to 4.8 mm, The European Space Agency (ESA) said.

It is thought this will increase even further as global temperatures clime.

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Sentinel-6 will provide the only means of accurately measuring global sea level, helping to protect the 600 million people who live in vulnerable coastal areas across the globe, the UK government said.

What Copernicus Sentinel-6 might look like over the Andes. Credit EU Space Agency
Image: What Copernicus Sentinel-6 might look like in orbit over the Andes. Credit EU Space Agency

The satellite is named after the former head of NASA’s Earth science division – Dr Michael Freilich – and is a part of the Copernicus mission under the European Union’s Earth observation program.

It was jointly developed by ESA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

UK science minister Amanda Solloway said: “Tracking rising sea levels is one of the most important indicators of our planet warming up.

“This government-backed satellite will arm our leading scientists, researchers and meteorologists with critical data to measure the true impact of climate change on our planet”.

By David Aaron

November 26, 2020

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