The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is sitting on a launchpad ready to launch tomorrow, Saturday, November 21, 2020, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. Sentinel-6 is designed to monitor oceans worldwide and will be followed in 2025 by a twin satellite called Sentinel-6B. The spacecraft will extend the record of global sea level height measurements that spans back three decades.
Sentinel-6 also has instruments to gather atmospheric data for improved weather forecasting, climate models, and hurricane tracking. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was named after former NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich and was built as a US/European collaboration. Sentinel-6 will be pushed into orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the launch targeted for about 9:17 AM PST.
If the weather doesn’t hold for the launch tomorrow, NASA does have backup launch dates chosen on the following days, with the launch window falling about 12 minutes earlier each day. As SpaceX has done for a long time, the first stage rocket will begin its automated burn to return to Earth for reuse later.
After the first stage separates, the second stage will fire to continue moving the satellite into orbit. The second stage will fire a second time 45 minutes after the first to put the satellite into a parking orbit. About an hour after launch, solar panel deployment will begin, and the first contact from Sentinel-6 is expected to happen 25 minutes after the solar panels are deployed.
NASA will begin providing coverage of the launch at 8:45 AM PST on November 21. The coverage can be watched online here. Sentinel-6 and Sentinel-6B are part of the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission developed by the ESA. They were designed as part of the European Copernicus program led by the European Commission, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.