This illustration shows the front of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft in orbit above Earth with its deployable solar panels extended. As the world's latest ocean-monitoring satellite, it is launching on Nov. 10, 2020, to collect the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how our oceans are rising in response to climate change. The mission will also collect precise data of atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasts and climate models.
The conelike instrument on the bottom (Earth-facing side) of the spacecraft is the satellite's Poseidon-4 radar altimeter. The disklike instrument at the front of the spacecraft is the Advanced Microwave Radiometer (AMR-C). Both instruments will be used together to measure ocean surface height. The gray rectangle with six cones attached at the front-left of the spacecraft is part of the Global Navigation Satellite System - Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) instrument.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich extends the near-30-year record of satellite measurements of sea level initiated by the U.S.-European TOPEX/Poseidon mission in 1992 and that continued with the Jason-1, 2, and 3 series of sea level observation satellites. Launched in 2016, Jason-3 is currently providing data.
The satellite is named after Dr. Michael Freilich, the former director of NASA's Earth Science Division and an instrumental figure in advancing ocean observations from space. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is one of two identical spacecraft that compose the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission developed in partnership with ESA (the European Space Agency). Other partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the intergovernmental European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). ESA is developing the new Sentinel family of missions to support the operational needs of the European Union's Copernicus program, the EU's Earth observation program managed by the European Commission. The spacecraft's twin, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025.