NASA launching satellite to monitor sea level rise, affects of climate change over next decade

A week after it sent four astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time, SpaceX is expected to launch the first of two satellites Saturday that will monitor sea level rise over the next decade.

NASA’s Sentinel 6-Michael Freilich oceanography satellite – a joint venture with the European Space Agency – will begin a five-and-a-half-year mission to collect “the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how our oceans are rising in response to climate change,” according to NASA.

The mission also will collect information on atmospheric temperature and humidity to improve weather forecasts and climate models.

The satellite will head into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which is slated to launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force base at 12:17 a.m. ET Saturday. The satellite is named in honor of the late director of NASA’s Earth science division. It’s the first West Coast launch in a year a half.

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This illustration shows the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft in orbit above Earth with its deployable solar panels extended.

A second satellite is expected to launch in the coming years. Once in orbit, each satellite will collect sea level measurements “down to the centimeter for 90% of the world’s oceans,” according to NASA.

Watch the launch live on NASA’s website.

The most recent effort to monitor sea level rise follows the 2016 launch of the U.S.-European satellite, Jason-3, which is currently providing high-precision and timely observations of the topography of the global ocean, according to NASA.

Contributing: Rachael Joy, Florida Today

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Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich team members from European Space Agency pose with the spacecraft during processing.

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