The next SpaceX Falcon 9 launch is slated to take a new NASA and European Space Agency satellite into orbit as of Saturday.
The payload will be the Sentinel-6 Michael Freelich satellite, the latest in a series of satellites that have provided important data about sea level rise and climate change for nearly three decades. It is named after Michael Frillich, former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, who is considered a pioneer in doing oceanographic work from orbit.
The new ocean-detective bird will be able to measure sea levels within a few centimeters for 90% of the oceans worldwide. According to NASA, a twin satellite called Sentinel-6B will join the effort to launch in 2025. Instruments on the new satellites will also provide data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasting.
The mission begins with a fairly rare launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A Vandenberg statement warned that several sound booms could be heard in parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo when the Falcon 9 first stage returns for landing after lifting the satellite toward orbit. Should be eight minutes after liftoff.
Liftoff is currently set for 9:17 am PT on Saturday, and you can watch via the embedded live feed below.
This could prove to be a very busy day for SpaceX, which plans to launch its latest batch of Florida’s Starlink satellites only 1 hour later.