The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent NASA and the European Space Agency’s satellite to orbit California on Saturday morning. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freelich satellite is the latest in a series of satellites that have provided important data on sea level rise and climate change for nearly three decades. It is named after Michael Freelich, a former director of NASA’s Department of Earth Sciences, who is considered a pioneer in conducting oceanographic work from orbit.
The new sea-spy bird will be able to measure sea level within a few centimeters in 90% of the world’s oceans. A twin satellite called Sentinel-6B will join the effort when it launches in 2025. The devices on the new satellites will also provide information about atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasts, according to NASA.
The mission began with a rare launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the west coast of the United States. A statement sent by Vandenberg earlier in the week warned that multiple sonic booms could be heard in parts of California’s Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties as the first phase of the Falcon 9 orbited the satellite.
A loud boom can be heard on the mission’s webcast before the Falcon 9 succeeds on a successful landing shore a short distance from the first-stage launching pad. Check out the feed for yourself below.
It’s the start of a very busy day for SpaceX, which also plans to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites from Florida.