In preparation for liftoff on 10 November, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite has been fuelled. The video shows the satellite being spun around on its frame and then moved out of the cleanroom. The satellite was subsequently fuelled. Everything went very smoothly, with the team completing this somewhat hazardous task in just one day. The fuelling team followed up to check that there were no leaks and then sealed the fill and drain valves.
The next task is to join the satellite to the launch adapter before it is finally encapsulated in the Falcon 9 rocket fairing. Liftoff from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California has been confirmed for 19:29:39 GMT (20:29:39 CET) on 10 November.
Once safely in orbit, Copernicus Sentinel-6 will continue the long-term record of reference sea-surface height measurements that were started in 1992 by the French–US Topex Poseidon satellite and then by the Jason series of satellite missions. The mission comprises two identical satellites launched five years apart. Firstly, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launching in few weeks, and then Copernicus Sentinel-6B in 2025 to supply measurements until at least 2030.
Since sea-level rise is a key indicator of climate change, accurately monitoring the changing height of the sea surface over decades is essential for climate science, for policy-making and, ultimately, for protecting those in low-lying regions at risk.
The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission is a true example of international cooperation. While Sentinel-6 is one of the European Union’s family of Copernicus missions, its implementation is the result of the unique collaboration between ESA, NASA, Eumetsat and NOAA, with contribution from the French space agency CNES.