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EXPLAINED: WHAT IS THE SENTINEL-6 SATELLITE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

EXPLAINED: WHAT IS THE SENTINEL-6 SATELLITE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Context

The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, designed to monitor oceans, was launched.

Details

It is a part of the next mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level. Other satellites that have been launched since 1992 to track changes in the oceans on a global scale include the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and OSTN/Jason-2, among others.

What is the mission?

  • The mission, called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission, is designed to measure the height of the ocean, which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • It has been developed jointly by the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EU, with contributions from France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

What will the satellite do?

  • According to NASA, the satellite will ensure the continuity of sea-level observations into the fourth decade and will provide measurements of global sea-level rise.
  • The satellite will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help scientists measure the sea surface height.
  • It will also measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.
  • The data it collects will support operational oceanography, by providing improved forecasts of ocean currents, wind and wave conditions.

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