When Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was encapsulated in the payload fairing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, it was the last time human eyes would have a close-up look at the satellite. But now that the spacecraft is in orbit after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Nov. 21, NASA's Eyes on the Earth is keeping track.
The app provides a 3D visualization of the sea-level-monitoring satellite, letting you see where it is right now as it glides over the cloud-covered globe.
Rendered in stunning detail, the spacecraft's avatar even includes the instruments it will use to measure sea level height and gather atmospheric data. With the click of a mouse, you can rotate the satellite to see it from any angle, watch it fly above Earth in real-time, or speed it up to see its entire five-and-a-half-year mission unfold over a few minutes.
"What we create for Eyes is an engineering model of the real thing. You can get lost in the detail - not just in how the sunlight reflects off the spacecraft's solar panels but how you can track its exact location in orbit," said Jason Craig, visualization producer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "We have data streaming from space missions near and far, and we've put that data to work. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is only the latest spacecraft to be added to the growing number of missions."
As a bonus, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite model has also been added to the Webby award-winning Eyes on the Solar System. The web-based application has customizable pop-up menus that allow you to zoom in and out to see where Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is in comparison with other Earth-observing satellites. You can even put it side-by-side with other spacecraft orbiting other planets.
More About the Mission
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be followed by its twin Sentinel-6B in 2025. Together, they make up the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission, which was developed by ESA (European Space Agency) in the context of the European Copernicus program led by the European Commission, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with funding support from the European Commission and technical support from France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, built three science instruments for each Sentinel-6 satellite: the Advanced Microwave Radiometer, the Global Navigation Satellite System - Radio Occultation, and the Laser Retroreflector Array. NASA also contributed launch services, ground systems supporting operation of the NASA science instruments, the science data processors for two of these instruments, and support for the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team. The launch was managed by NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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