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article imageSpaceX launches advanced ocean-mapping satellite into orbit

By Karen Graham     Nov 21, 2020 in Science
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched an advanced ocean-mapping satellite into orbit for NASA and the European Space Agency Saturday (Nov. 21) in a stunning morning launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Under a clear blue Southern California sky on Saturday, the 229-foot (70 meters) SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leaped off the pad from Space Launch Complex 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST/1717 GMT), reports
The rocket carried the world's latest ocean-monitoring satellite, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is one of two identical spacecraft that compose the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission developed in partnership between NASA and the ESA (European Space Agency)
On Saturday, Jason-6A, the first of the two identical satellites was sent into orbit on a trajectory that took it .southward over the Pacific Ocean. Nine minutes after the launch, the Falcon's first stage made a successful landing back at the launch site.
About one hour after launch, Jason-6A was released from the second stage of the Falcon 9, and soon after, it deployed its solar panels and made first-contact with controllers, per CTV News Canada.
The $97 million Jason-6A will be joined by its twin, Jason-6B in 2025. The twin satellites will be contributing to a nearly 30-year continuous data record - following in the footsteps of three previous missions - TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, Ocean Surface Topography/Jason-2, and Jason-3.
The international ocean science satellite was renamed after Earth scientist Dr. Michael H. Freilich. Dr. Freilich was director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division for more than 12 years, before retiring in February 2019. During his tenure at NASA, Dr. Freilich led the revitalization of NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing research missions.
Dr. Freilich died of cancer in August. Freilich's family watched the launch in person, with son Daniel and daughter Sarah (with Freilich's baby granddaughter Rosie) remembering their father after liftoff.
"It means so much to see it and feel it,” Daniel Freilich said of witnessing the launch in NASA's live broadcast. "I’d heard him talking about feeling it." Sarah added, "It was gorgeous. I haven't seen anything that gorgeous before."
More about Spacex, Sentinel6 Michael Freilich satellite, Sea levels, Esa, NASA
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