Copernicus: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich
Launched in November 2020 with a design life of seven years, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the first of two satellites to be launched as part of the Sentinel-6 (S-6) mission. As the successor of NASA’s Jason-3 mission, S-6 is a joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As part of the ESA Copernicus programme for Earth observation, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be joined by Sentinel-6B in 2025 to provide continuity in sea-surface height measurements until new technologies can take over in 2030. A secondary objective of the mission is to measure the temperature and humidity in the troposphere and stratosphere.
|Launch date||November 22, 2022|
|End of life date||June 2026|
|CEOS EO Handbook||See Copernicus: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich summary|
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich carries three instruments; Poseidon-4 (POS4), AMR-C (Advanced Microwave Radiometer for Climate), and HRMR (High-Resolution Microwave Radiometer). The primary payload, Poseidon-4, is a nadir-pointing dual frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) altimeter designed to provide high accuracy and high precision altimetry measurements, including sea surface height from the radar range of the measurement, significant wave height and wind speed derived from normalised radar cross section. AMR-C is designed primarily to measure path delay due to atmospheric water vapour along the altimeter path for Poseidon-4, generating a correction for the delay of the Poseidon-4 pulses. HRMR is an experimental system included in the AMR-C design that supports the high-resolution SAR mode of Poseidon-4; as a supporting instrument, the HRMR has no mission requirements or objectives.
Poseidon-4 acquires data simultaneously using SAR processing and conventional Low Resolution Mode (LRM) approaches. The altimeter’s main frequency for surface height measurements is the Ku-band (central frequency: 13.575 GHz, bandwidth: 320 MHz) with the secondary C-band frequency (central frequency: 5.41 GHz, bandwidth: 320 MHz) being used for ionosphere corrections, rain cell measurements and surface roughness estimates.
AMR-C uses linear polarised brightness temperatures at 18.7, 23.8 and 34 GHz to retrieve the wet-tropospheric correction for the Poseidon-4 instrument with an uncertainty better than 0.12 m for a single 1 Hz measurement. These three frequencies are used to separate the three dominant components of the brightness temperature to estimate wet path delay: total atmospheric water vapour, total integrated cloud liquid water and wind induced ocean surface roughness. The spatial resolution of measurements in all channels is less than 35 km and the antenna beams are equalised in the along tack direction using along track averaging thus they only differ slightly across-track.
The HRMR instrument includes millimetre-wave channels at 90, 130 and 168 GHz. These channels will extend the microwave retrievals closer to the coast under cloud-free conditions.
Sentinel-6 operates in a non-sun-synchronous orbit at a mean altitude of 1336 km with an inclination of 66°, enabling it to map 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days.
Space and Hardware Components
Sentinel-6, built by Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is equipped with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) antennas located on the roof of the satellite to optimise the receiving of signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Galileo constellations. The satellite is also equipped with a Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA and a Doppler Orbitography Radio-positioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system. Sentinel-6 was launched with 230 kg of hydrazine monopropellant fuel with four thrusters to keep the satellite in orbital position throughout its lifetime. Data collected over each orbit is stored in a 576 GB solid-state mass memory, prior to dowlinking via the X-band communication channel to ground station, in northern Sweden, at a data rate of 150 Mbps. Sentinel-6 uses three star tracker heads that point in different directions, since in flight one or the other will be blending by sunlight or moonlight at some point along its orbit, to determine its absolute attitude in inertial space.
In April 2022, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was announced as the new Reference Altimetry Mission for the worldwide altimetry constellation, providing continuity for the previous reference series of Missions, Europe & USA’s Jason series.
Copernicus: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Mission — formerly Sentinel-6 / Jason-CS (Jason Continuity of Service) MissionSpacecraft Launch Mission Status Sensor Complement References
Jason-CS is the second component of the hybrid solution (Jason-3 + Jason-CS) agreed to in 2009. Jason-CS will ensure continuity with Jason-3 to guarantee adequate overlap with Jason-3. At least two satellites with a 7 years lifetime each (5 years + 2 years consumables) are planned to give time before new technologies such as swath interferometry (SWOT mission) can be considered as operational. 1) 2)
The Jason-CS satellite will carry a radar altimeter package to continue the high-precision, low-inclination altimetry missions of Jason-2 and -3. It will complement the high-inclination measurements on Sentinel-3 to obtain high-precision global sea-surface topography for the marine and climate user community.
Some background of the Jason-CS / Sentinel-6 mission 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8)
In late 2013, following a request from the EC (European Commission), it was agreed that the Jason-CS mission should become more closely associated with the other missions in the Copernicus family, and use the name Sentinel-6. However, there were reasons why the Jason-CS name should be retained. A compromise was adopted so that the Sentinel-6 mission will be implemented with the Jason-CS satellite, and partner organizations are able to use either name according to circumstances.
• As part of the approval process on the EUMETSAT side, the second meeting of potential program participants was held in December 2013. At this meeting, ESA announced that the new High Resolution Microwave Radiometer, which was still under technical investigation, would be suppressed for affordability reasons. The detailed technical definition continues in Phase-B2, including the selection of the subcontractor for the Mono-Propellant Propulsion System being performed according to ESA's Best Practice rules. 3)
• On May 11, 2015, ESA and Airbus Defence and Space signed a contract to develop the Jason-CS / Sentinel-6A satellite mission for Europe's Copernicus program. 6)
• In July 2015, TAS (Thales Alenia Space) signed the first part of a contract with Airbus Defense and Space to supply Poseidon-4 spaceborne radar altimeters. These instruments will be installed on the Jason-CS/Sentinel 6-A and Jason-CS/Sentinel 6-B satellites developed by Airbus Defense and Space for ESA (European Space Agency), in collaboration with EUMETSAT and the European Commission, for the Copernicus program. 7)
- Drawing on a 20 year heritage of orbital operations, the Poseidon-4 altimeter features higher performance than the previous generation, because of the introduction of a new, "interleaved" SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) operating mode. Poseidon-4 will also feature a new architecture, improving the role of the digital functions to support higher stability of the performances, and eventually reduce development costs.
• Sept. 11, 2015: The EUMETSAT Member States have approved the development and implementation of the collaborative high precision ocean altimetry Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission, involving also ESA, the European Union through its Copernicus program, and the United States, through NASA and NOAA. 8)
The Jason-CS program constitutes EUMETSAT's contribution to the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission to be developed and implemented through a partnership between the EU, ESA, EUMETSAT, NASA, and NOAA. From 2020 to beyond 2030, the Sentinel-6 mission will uniquely extend the climate record of sea-level measurements accumulated since 1992 by TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 , Jason-2 , and Jason-3. A prime mission objective is to continue this long global sea-level time series with an error on the sea level trend of less than 1mm/year. The Sentinel-6 mission will also be an essential observing system for operational oceanography and seasonal forecasts in Europe and beyond. It will provide measurements of sea surface height, significant wave height, and wind speed without degradation in precision and accuracy compared to the currently flying Jason-2 mission. As such, like its predecessors, the proposed mission will provide key user measurement services for sea-level-rise monitoring, operational oceanography, and marine meteorology. These services will be aligned with those of the Sentinel-3 missions, which will be operational in the same era, see Figure 1. 9)
In addition to the altimeter data service, Sentinel-6 will also include a GNSS-RO (GNSS Radio Occultation) instrument as a secondary payload, taking advantage of the non-sun-synchronous orbit of Sentinel-6. The GNSS-RO measurements will provide information on atmospheric pressure, temperature and water vapor as well as ionospheric data. The radio occultation data service primarily addresses the needs of meteorological and climate users.
The Sentinel-6 mission program consists of two identical satellites (Jason-CS A and Jason-CS B) with each a nominal lifetime of 5.5 years and a planned overlap of at least 6 months. The satellites will be launched sequentially into the "Jason orbit" to take over the services of Jason-3 when this scheduled mission becomes of age. Currently, the launches of Jason-CS A and B are planned for 2020 and 2026, respectively.
Programmatic setup: 10)
Figure 3 outlines the multi-partner program and agreement setup underlying the Sentinel-6 missions. The European contribution will be implemented through the combination of the EU/ESA Copernicus program and the optional EUMETSAT Jason-CS program , for the joint benefits of the meteorological and Copernicus user communities in Europe. In addition, on behalf of the United States, NASA and NOAA are developing a dedicated Jason-CS program. The following high-level sharing of responsibilities is envisaged (which may still be subject to some changes):
• EUMETSAT is the system authority and is responsible for the Sentinel-6 ground segment development and operations preparation. EUMETSAT will also carry out the operations build-up and operations of the Sentinel-6 system including both satellites and delivery of data services to Copernicus service providers and users on behalf of the EU. Additionally EUMETSAT will fund S-6 B (together with the EU) and potentially part of S6 A as well.
• ESA is responsible for the development of the first Jason-CS satellite and the instruments prototype processors as well as for the procurement of the recurrent satellite on behalf of EUMETSAT, CNES and the EU. The industrial consortium strongly based on the CryoSat team. It will operate the satellite in the first few days after launch, until the basic check-out of the payload is complete. It is responsible also for the instruments prototype processors as well as for the procurement of the recurrent satellite on behalf of EUMETSAT and the EU.
• CNES (France) is providing expert support to the mission and system development. During operations will process data from the DORIS (Doppler-Orbitography-and-Radiopositioning-Integrated-by-Satellite) payload and provide precise orbits.
• The EU, through the EC (European Commission), will fund the procurement of S-6 B (together with EUMETSAT) and the operations for both A and B satellites.
• NASA will deliver the US payload instruments for both satellites and will provide ground segment development support, launch services, and contributions to operations.
• NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is providing ground stations to complement the EUMETSAT station and will process and distribute science data.
• NASA/JPL is developing the US payload instruments and procuring the launcher. NASA will also support the science team.
• The European Space Agency has selected Airbus Defence and Space as the prime contractor to develop and construct the two new satellites in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
The three space agencies will share the responsibility for the science team coordination and the calibration and/or validation activities, with EC being involved in the interactions with the science teams. In addition, agreements will be concluded between EUMETSAT and CNES and between NOAA and NASA for system and science expertise support.
Sentinel-6 will be a truly operational mission in all aspects of its main user services. Hence, full emphasis is put on reduction of downtime to a minimum, on timely distribution of data products, and on high quality and reliability of the measurement data. The mission will also include support to information service providers and major reprocessing activities.
The Sentinel-6 product suite is currently being detailed. The baseline is to provide a product suite that will enable an optimal combination with products from other altimeter missions. This is particularly pursued for combining Sentinel-6 with the Sentinel-3 Ku/C radar altimeter (SRAL) missions. Next to the conventional Level 2 products, known as GDRs (Geophysical Data Records) for the Jason missions, the Sentinel-6 product suite will include Level 1 products aimed at the further study of the intrinsic altimeter waveforms and development and innovative processing techniques. Also, the generation of higher-level single-mission products (Level 2P and Level 3) are supported in order to serve mainly the ocean modelling community.
Sentinel-6 products are to meet high standards, such that they will be of sufficient quality to serve as the high precision reference mission for other altimeter missions. It has been formally required that the mission performance shall not be worse than the known performance of Jason-2. With the current design, however, the expectation is that the Sentinel-6 mission will outperform Jason-2 on many aspects and will form a reliable state of the art reference for various other altimeter missions in the near future.
The Sentinel-6 products will also maintain their quality closer to the coastline than products from its predecessor Jason missions (e.g. Raney, 1998; Gommenginger et al., 2012; Halimi et al., 2014). 11) 12) 13) This, among other techniques, will be facilitated by replacing the conventional LRM (Low-Resolution Mode) altimeter by one that has along-track SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) capabilities.
The Sentinel-6 radio occultation products will contribute to operational weather forecasting and to assessments of atmospheric climate trends by providing information that allows to derive atmospheric temperature and water vapor profiles. In addition, ionospheric data are also provided up to 500 km altitude.
The Sentinel-6 Space Segment consists of two successive Jason-CS satellites (A and B), based on the CryoSat-2 heritage platform, with some tailoring to specific needs of the Sentinel-6 mission. The satellites will embark the following main payload:
• A radar altimeter (Poseidon-4), to measure the range between the satellite and the mean ocean surface, determine significant wave height and wind speed, and provide the correction for the altimeter range path delay in the ionosphere by using signals at two distinct frequencies (Ku-band and C-band).
• A microwave radiometer, called AMR-C (Advanced Microwave Radiometer-C) of JPL, to provide a correction for the wet tropospheric path delay for the altimeter range measurement.
• POD (Precise Orbit Determination) instruments – namely a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and precise orbit determination receiver (GNSS-POD), a DORIS (Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite) instrument, and a LRA (Laser Retroreflector Array) – to provide with high accuracy and precision a measurement of the orbital position as needed for the conversion of the measurement of altimeter range into a sea level.
• GNSS-RO (GNSS- Radio Occultation) instrument to provide (with high vertical resolution) all-weather atmospheric and ionospheric soundings by tracking GNSS satellites.
The GNSS-RO instrument is added to Sentinel-6 as a secondary mission to provide radio occultation observation services to meteorological users. However, the primary altimeter mission supported by the other instruments takes priority in all design and mission planning.
It is important to remark that the Poseidon-4 radar altimeter has evolved significantly from the Poseidon-3A and -3B instruments on board Jason-2 and -3, respectively. In addition to a conventional pulse-width limited processing, also known as low-resolution mode, the Poseidon-4 on board the Jason-CS satellites will also have the facility of simultaneous high-resolution (HR) processing, generally referred to as SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) mode processing. This HR processing will provide further service alignment with the SAR mode of the Sentinel-3 SRAL mission.
The Jason-CS satellites will fly in the same orbit as their predecessors, TOPEX/Poseidon and the Jason missions (Table 1). This is a non-sun-synchronous orbit with a nominal altitude of 1336 km and 66º inclination. The orbit period is 112 min and 26 s and the ground track cycle repeats approximately every 9 days and 22 hours. Because of the relatively large ground track spacing of 315 km at the equator, Jason-CS alone will not be able to satisfy the sampling requirements for mesoscale oceanography. Thus, the Sentinel-6 mission is coordinated with other altimeter missions, chiefly the Sentinel-3 mission, to provide together a complementary spatiotemporal sampling of the oceans and serve as a high-precision reference to sea-level-change studies.
A NASA/JPL Presentation of Ocean Altimetry
• November 6, 2020: From a ship, a plane, or the beach, the oceans can look pretty flat and uniform. But in reality, the water in the ocean piles up in peaks and valleys. It stands higher on some shores than on others. It can slosh around in ocean basins like the water in a bathtub. The surface of the ocean rises and falls naturally, varying as much as 2 to 3 meters in places. 14)
- Scientists also know that the overall level of the sea has been rising around the world, and more in some places than others. They estimate that over the past 140 years, global mean sea level has risen 21 to 24 cm.
- There are many reasons why the ocean surface is lumpy. The friction between winds and water causes waves to build up. The tug of gravity from the Moon and Sun causes tides to rise and fall. The rotation of Earth (Coriolis effects) and the flow of currents also amass water in vast streams. Atmospheric pressure pushes and pulls on the water surface. Continents, islands, and even underwater seamounts exert a gravitational tug that draws water up around them.
- We also know that seawater of different temperatures and salinities (salt content) can be more or less dense, filling more or less volume. For instance, scientists have known for decades that sea level is generally higher in the Pacific than in the Atlantic—about 20 cm — because Pacific waters are usually warmer, fresher, and less dense.
- We know these things because we can measure them. For more than four decades, scientists have used satellite-based instruments known as radar altimeters to monitor ocean surface topography—the shape and height of the ocean's peaks and valleys. Radar altimeters continually send out pulses of radio waves (microwaves) that bounce off the surface of the ocean and reflect back toward the satellite. The instrument calculates the time it takes for the signal to return, while also tracking the precise location of the satellite in space. From this, scientists can derive the height of the sea surface directly underneath the satellite.
- Long before there were satellites, scientists measured the height of the sea with tide gauges mounted in coastal bays and harbors. Collected in some places since the early 19th century, these records have provided one way to detect changes in the coastal ocean. But since landmasses and islands are unevenly distributed among the world, and tide gauges tend to be clustered on the shores of wealthier countries, the view has been limited. Still, there is value in long-term records, and readings from more than 1500 tide gauges have been compiled and analyzed by research groups like the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level. Their data help corroborate what satellites observe.
- In the Space Age, altimetry satellites have been building upon the tide gauge records. Since 1992, four missions have used very similar instruments and have repeated the same orbit every ten days: TOPEX/Poseidon (1992-2006), Jason-1 (2001-2013), Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 (2008-2019), and Jason-3 (2016 to present). The missions were built through various partnerships between NASA, France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Space Agency, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Known to the science community as the "reference missions," these altimetry satellites have been making standardized measurements of the fluctuations of sea level near and far. They provide a unified ocean topography record and the equivalent coverage of a half-million tide gauges. (Other altimetry missions employ different approaches and orbits to study ocean topography and further complement this record.) Two more successor satellites have been built to extend this reference record for another decade; the first of these, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, is scheduled to be launched in late 2020.
- Spotting a few millimeters of change amid the dynamic churning of the ocean is a challenge. The satellite has to look down through 1300 kilometers of atmosphere. While clouds are no trouble for radar—which penetrates cloud cover—the amount of moisture in the air slows down the radio signal and can make the ocean appear higher or lower than it actually is. To compensate for this, engineers have built instruments into the satellites to measure water vapor and account for its effects.
- Another challenge is knowing the exact height of the satellite—researchers call it "precise orbit determination." Each altimetry satellite has reflectors that can bounce laser signals from ground stations to measure altitude. The satellites also have Doppler and Global Positioning System receivers to further pinpoint location. The goal is to know exactly how far the satellite is from the center of the Earth at any moment. Finally, the orbital pattern takes the satellites directly over tide gauge stations on the French island of Corsica and an oil rig off of California to simultaneously measure sea level from above and at the surface every ten days.
- Even when scientists account for all of the variables in measuring sea level, the planet offers more complications: sea surface patterns and rhythms that can span years and decades. Climate patterns such as El Niño and La Niña, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Indian Ocean Dipole all cause water to warm or cool, rise and fall, and slosh around the ocean basins. Even major current systems can speed up or slow down.
- Scientists have accounted for that, too. By analyzing sea surface data over long periods and noting the occurrence of major events like El Niño, they can identify and remove the natural cycles to spot the comparatively small changes in overall sea level. This is why radar altimeters are now in their fifth generation: they have collectively accumulated a data record that is longer than the seasonal, yearly, and even decadal cycles.
- What scientists have found after all of that data gathering and cross-checking is that global mean sea level has risen a total of 95 mm since TOPEX-Poseidon first started flying in 1992. And the rate is accelerating. Over the course of the 20th Century, sea level rose at about 1.5 mm per year; in the early 1990s, the rate was about 2.5 mm per year. Over the past 30 years, the average rate has increased to 3.4 mm per year.
- That total rise in seal level is a global average, and the numbers can be significantly higher in some places (see the map of Figure 63). For instance, researchers have observed that sea level along much of the East Coast of North America has been rising faster than the global average.
- While a few mm of higher water may seem small, scientists estimate that every 25 mm of sea level rise translates into 2.5 m of lost beach along our coasts. It also means that high tides and storm surges can rise even higher, bringing more coastal flooding, even on sunny days. Some estimates suggest seas could rise another 650 mm by the year 2100 if Earth's ice sheets and glaciers keep melting and its waters keep warming.
- Ocean altimeters alone cannot tell us why seas are rising; other instruments and data sets are needed to tell us that. But together with tide gauges, these satellites tell us clearly that our planet is changing. And they help us see more clearly where that is happening.
ESA has selected Airbus DS as the prime contractor to develop and construct the two new satellites in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The development is well advanced and the project is going into the integration phase. Sentinel-6/Jason-CS satellites are designed to orbit for minimum 5.5 years each and will ensure measurements carried out on a continuous basis from 2020 onwards, with better performances in respect to earlier Jason series. The satellites will measure their distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimeters, from an altitude of 1,336 km (Ref. 10). 15)
Sentinel-6 /Jason-CS will be an essential observing system for sea-level-rise monitoring, coastal zones altimetry, operational oceanography, seasonal forecast and marine meteorology. The two identically equipped A and B satellites are designed for a mission lifetime of 7.5 years and a planned overlap of at least 1.5 years. The S-6 satellites will give time before new technologies, such as the Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SWOT mission), will be consolidated (Ref. 9), which is currently expected to happen in the second half of the ‘20 decade.
Satellite System Design Overview
Taking into account the Sentinel-6 mission objectives, satellite system requirements (SSRD), operational interface requirements (OIRD) and considering the following payload complement elements:
- Poseidon-4 SAR Radar Altimeter (POS4),
- Microwave Radiometer AMR-C,
- DORIS Receiver and Antenna,
- GNSS-POD Receiver and Antennas,
- LRA (Laser Retroreflector Array),
- REM (Radiation Monitoring Unit),
A set of major design drivers have been considered for the design of S6 satellites. These design drivers can be summarized as follows:
- Stringent center of mass knowledge and stability requirements until the end of the mission
- Accommodation of major payload elements with nadir pointing antennas and radiators
- Payload pointing and co-alignment accuracy
- End-of-life reentry and post-mission disposal
- Power / thermal / mechanical design adapted to the drifting orbit conditions
- Modular approach for assembly and testing
- Use of off-the-shelf equipments for the platform as far as possible for risk mitigation
- Harsh space radiation environment.
Mechanical Architecture and Configuration: As a result of these conditions a compact satellite body (Figure 7) has been selected based on the design principles from other missions designed for drifting orbits, like CryoSat-2. Since the majority of instruments requires nadir pointing of their antennas and thermal radiators, the principle dimensions of the satellite structure are vastly pre-determined by their size.
S-6 has a total length of 5085 mm (along Xsc), a height of 2349 mm (along Zsc) and a width of 2581 mm (along Ysc) in stowed configuration. The S/C dry mass with margin, is 1039 kg. The launch mass, including system margin and propellant mass, is 1362 kg, fully compatible also with the smaller among the proposed launchers (Antares).
Two fixed Solar Arrays (SA) are located in the form of a tent. Two additional deployable solar panels are released by simple passive deployment mechanisms. The distribution of equipments has been determined mainly by the following constraints:
- Free fields of view for the instruments and short distance between the ones needing stable alignment.
- Short distance for RF path and reduction of RF interferences.
- Accommodation of the high dissipating equipments on a nadir panel and far from alignment critical payload elements.
- Accommodation of the monopropellant fuel tank close to the satellite's launcher interface.
- Distribution of units to control the overall center of mass.
The POS4 (Poseidon-4 Radar Altimeter) is the main instrument of the S-6/Jason-CS mission. Its redundant electronic units are mounted on the nadir pointing Main Payload Panel, with a large thermal radiator. The antenna itself is mounted almost isostatically to the Payload main panel that embeds heat pipes in order to comply with stringent temperature stability requirements of the Altimeter. The AMR-C Radiometer and the Star Trackers are mounted on the Payload front panel. The Payload Panel supporting the redundant RA (Radar Altimeter) is designed as a module to be assembled and tested independently.
Stability of alignment between Altimeter antenna, Star Trackers and Radiometer are guaranteed by the close distance resulting in similar temperatures and low relative thermal distortions.
The core elements of the satellite are installed in the bus section, the majority of the instruments instead are located in the payload section (Figure 8). These show significant thermal dissipation and unit masses, hence are accommodated on the dissipating nadir panels to achieve their operating temperatures and to balance the satellite center of mass. Data exchange is done with an X-band and an S-band systems located on the nadir panel. Nearby are located the DORIS receiver and antenna for precise position determination.
The MPPS (Mono-Propellant Propulsion System) items are mounted on a separate support structure. Therefore the MPPS can be assembled and tested separately from the satellite AIT sequence, then finally inserted into the launcher interface ring adapter. To cope with the stringent center of mass knowledge requirement, dedicated metal ring elements are installed inside the tank to control the gas bubble of the pressurant during the mission.
The redundant European GNSS-POD and its antennas are accommodated on the zenith panel. Regarding the US GNSS-RO, one antenna is mounted in zenith direction (GNSS-RO-PA), one in flight (GNSS-RO fore antenna) and one in anti-flight direction (GNSS-RO aft antenna).
The S-6 LRA is accommodated on the nadir plate of the satellite close to the center of gravity. The REM (Radiation Environment Measurement Unit) has been lately introduced as experimental payload and placed, outside, on the front panel. All structure panels are made of aluminum sandwich. The solar array panels are made of CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) facesheets and aluminum honeycomb.
TCS (Thermal Control Subsystem): The TCS design of the S-6 satellites incorporates passive and active elements. The passive elements are MLI (Multi Layer Insulation) blankets and dedicated radiators covered with SSM (Secondary Surface Mirrors) providing a rather homogeneous environment for heat rejection towards Earth. The main structure is partly painted black internally in order to minimize temperature gradients inside the structure. For active temperature control, heaters are implemented in dedicated areas.
Electrical and Functional Architecture: The "Electrical System" of the S-6 satellite comprises all the necessary hardware to operate the satellite, and to execute the software. This covers the following functional chains:
• EPS (Electrical Power System). Including:
- PCDU (Power Control and Distribution Unit, ESP)
- Batteries (UK)
- Solar Arrays (GER/NL/IT/USA)
- Harness (ESP).
• Data Handling System. Including:
- OBC (SWE) including: OBC Electronics (OBC-E) including TCAU (TC Authentication Unit). OBC Boot and Basic IO SW.
- RIU (Remote Interface Unit, FIN) including AOCS electronics.
• AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystem) Including:
- Reaction Wheels (RW, GER)
- Magnetic Torquers (MTQ, GER)
- Magnetometers (MAG, GER)
- Coarse Earth Sun Sensors (CESS, GER)
- Rate Measurement Unit (RMU, FRA)
- Star Tracker (STR, GER) including electronics, optical head and baffles
- GNSS-POD (AT).
• Reaction Control System (RCS, UK). Including:
- Pressure Transducers (PT, NL), Flow Control Valves (FCV) including Catalyzer Bed Heaters (CBH), Latch Valves (LV), Thermocouples and Temperature Sensors.
• Payload Data-Handling and Transmission (PDHT). Including:
- MMFU (Mass Memory and Formatting Unit, IT)
- X-band System (XBS, GER/SWE).
• Tracking, Telemetry and Command System (TTC, ESP/SWE). Including S-band transponder and antennae.
• The instrument complement including: POS-4, DORIS, REM, AMR-C and GNSS-RO.
• Plus the instrument and system harness.
The electrical architecture chosen for S-6 applies the Electrical Interface Standardization for satellite architectures successfully implemented by Airbus in many recent programs, and in very close commonality with Sentinel-2 and the Airbus internal Astrobus concept. The architecture shows compliance at optimal cost and risk plus demonstrating reliable heritage.
EPS (Electrical Power Subsystem): The EPS generates electrical power in sunlight by operating the 17.5m2 body mounted solar array at its maximum power point. It can provide nearly 5.5 kW at BOL (Begin Of Life), about 1 kW average in flight. The EPS manages the charge and discharge of the Li-Ion battery based on 1152 cells, split into two modules, for a total of 147 Ah EOL (End Of Life).
The unregulated main-bus (29.5 - 33.6 V) is managed according the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) concept and the batteries are directly connected to it. Via LCLs (Latching Current Limiters), the EPS provides main-bus overvoltage and undervoltage protection and distributes protected unregulated primary power to all the satellite users. - The EPS provides also a hot redundant failure handling function, control of the heaters and passivation at EOL via leak path.
DHS (Data Handling Subsystem): The DHS is in charge of the overall satellite command and control including AOCS algorithms. It is running the on-board SW and FDIR (Fault detection, Isolation and Recovery). The DHS distributes ground and software issued commands to the satellite and collects the satellite housekeeping telemetry.
The platform and payload units are connected with the OBC each through dedicated MIL-buses and to the RIU (Remote Interface Unit) via discrete I/O interfaces. Direct telecommands and essential telemetry links are implemented to enable ground to directly command the various on-board subsystems and units.
The DHS comprises two internally redundant units, the OBC and the RIU. It includes a small mass memory, but the main one is a dedicated MMFU that is part of the PDHT system.
Each OBC side is composed by three main sub units:
• TTR (M) [Telemetry, Telecommand, Reconfiguration and mass memory] providing TM/TC handling, failure handlings, Timing and Synchronization and a small Mass Memory.
• Processor module based on SPARC ERC32, providing computation, Watch Dog Timer and communication via MIL and SpW buses.
• Power Converter Module, providing internal secondary power, High Power command, Relay Status reading and analogue signal management.
The OBC can send HPC-SHP (High Priority High Power Commands) to various equipments in order to allow their switching by direct commanding from ground without the need of software.
The RIU comprises several modules. While the "Core" part of the RIU is providing the standard I/O I/F, there are additional modules to control the non-standard functions.
AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystem): The AOCS is responsible for the satellite's attitude and orbit control through the following functionalities: rate damping, vector sun acquisition, safe mode control, fine pointing of the payloads in nominal mode (with GNSS-POD support) and orbit control maneuvers.
Several individual sensors and actuators are necessary to carry out this task: RW, MTQ, CESS, MAG, RMU, STR and GNSS-POD. Some communicating via the MIL-bus, others via discrete TM/TC lines.
MPPS (Mono-Propellant Propulsion Subsystem): The MPPS uses hydrazine propellant. It is assembled with two independent, cold redundant branches each ending in four 8 N thrusters. For safety reasons, every thruster has two independent actuators in series. Each thruster is equipped with two CBH (Catalyzer Bed Heaters) and a PT 100 thermistor.
PDHT (Payload Data Handling and Transmission): The PDHT system consists of the internally redundant MMFU(Mass Memory and Formatting Unit) and XBS (X-band System). The MMFU is a standalone solid mass memory based on SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) technology with 352 Gbit EOL capacity. It receives data from both the RA and the OBC (collecting from all the other data providers) via SpaceWire links. It manages and stores the incoming data in packet stores, on APID (Application Process ID) bases, and allows read and write accesses at the same time. The read data are formatted and routed on demand to either the XBS sides.
The XBS consists of the redundant X-band XDA (Downlink Assembly) and the X-band antenna. The XDA modulates the data onto the X-band carrier for transmission to the ground, transmitting them at 150 Mbit/s. The XBS is used only for scientific and telemetry data.
TT&C (Tracking, Telemetry & Command): The TT&C is a conventional S-band system for telecommand, telemetry and ranging consisting of two S-band RX/TX transponders (with a ranging channel), one hemispherical antenna (nadir) for nominal communications, one hemispherical antenna (zenith) and one hybrid coupler to simultaneously connect the antennas to both transponders. It is also used for telemetry data, during LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase). -The data rates are 16 kbit/s in uplink and 32 kbit/s LR (Low data Rate) or 1 Mbit/s (high data rate, HR) in downlink.
Redundancy concept and implementation: The essential I/Fs (Interfaces) are double cross-strapped provided (with nominal and redundant driver and receiver functions, with 2 I/Fs each and external cross-strap). E.g. MIL and SpW buses. The standard I/Fs are cross-strapped inside RIU and OBC (with nominal and redundant driver and receiver functions, with one interface each and internal cross-strap on master side only). E.g. Discrete High Priority TM/TC. - A few special actuators are redundant but not cross-strapped.
Satellite SW Systems: The S-6 software system is distributed across the spacecraft. It consists of at least 7 different SW systems embedded in different units:
• OBC SW: it is embedded into the OBC. It is the master system data management and control unit. The SW performs the communication with the ground and comprises AOCS, thermal, system and data handling controls.
• MMFU Control SW: commands, controls and monitors the data flow and storage.
• Star Tracker SW: determines the 3-axes attitude.
• RA instrument Control SW: schedules the operational modes, executes the acquisition and tracking algorithms and manages the calibration mode.
• AMR-C instrument Control SW: measures the three bands signals, applies antenna pattern correction and performs the regular calibration.
• GNSS-POD Receiver Electronics SW: acquire the GNSS signals and computes the real-time navigation solutions.
• REM SW: performs the radiation measurement and periodic instrument calibration.
Launch: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched on 21 November 2020 (17:17 UTC) on a Falcon-9 Block 5 vehicle of SpaceX from SLC-4A at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, USA. 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. 16) 17)
In October 2017, NASA selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Sentinel-6A mission. The launch is currently targeted for November 2020, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from SLC-4E (Space Launch Complex 4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.18)
Orbit: The nominal orbit for S-6 is the same of the precedent missions (TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 to -3) ensuring data consistency with the previously acquired time series. The Jason missions operate from a relatively high altitude (1336 km) prograde orbit with an inclination of 66º. The main orbit parameters are reported in Table 1.
Semi-major axis, eccentricity
7714.432261 km, 0.000094
Argument of perigee, inclination (non-sun-synchronous)
Reference altitude (equatorial)
Right ascension of ascending node (Ω)
Longitude of ascending node (pass 1)
Argument of perigee (ω)
Nodal period, orbits per day, repeat cycle
6745.72 s (112 m 23 s), 12.81, 9.91564 days
Number of orbits per cycle, number of passes per cycle
Ground track separation at equator, acute angle at equator crossings
315 km, 39.5º
Orbital velocity, ground track velocity
7.2 km/s, 5.8 km/s
Kiruna and Fairbanks (with Wallops as backup) are chosen as S- and X-band ground stations for sizing purposes but do not necessarily represent the final choice. Figures 12 and 13 show the intersections of reception cones of exemplary ground stations and the S-6 ground track. Considering the exemplary ground stations, the mean contact time will be 16 min with 76 min contact gap.
• June 8, 2022: Satellite images of our planet have become essential to our survival, offering a new outlook of our world. With rising seas being one of the biggest threats to society, satellite altimeter missions such as Copernicus Sentinel-6 are essential in monitoring global and regional changes in sea level. 19)
• On March 22, 2022, the newest U.S.-European sea level satellite, named Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, became the official reference satellite for global sea level measurements. This means that sea surface height data collected by other satellites will be compared to the information produced by Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich to ensure their accuracy. 20)
- Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in November 2020, the satellite is continuing a nearly 30-year legacy started by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite, which began its mission to measure sea surface height in the early 1990s. A series of successor satellites have carried on the effort since then, with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich being the most recent. Its twin, Sentinel-6B, is slated to launch in 2025.
- These missions, of which Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the latest, are the gold standard when it comes to sea level measurements, which are critical for understanding and monitoring climate change," said Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
- Long-term records of sea level height are key to monitoring how much, and how fast, the oceans are rising in a warming climate. "We can't lose track of how much sea level has gone up because if we do, it's hard to predict what's going to happen in the decades to come," Willis added.
- "The unprecedented accuracy of the sea level measurements provided by this mission ensures not only the continuity of a 30-year data record, but allows improving our understanding of climate change and the impact of rising seas on coastal areas and communities," said Julia Figa Saldana, ocean altimetry program manager at the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
- After Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launched, it settled into orbit flying 30 seconds behind its predecessor, Jason-3. Science and engineering teams have spent the time since launch making sure Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was collecting the intended data and that the information was accurate. Some of the initial data was made available last year for use in tasks like weather forecasting. And after further validation, the scientists agreed that Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich should become the reference satellite for sea level measurements.
- Later this year, teams will move Jason-3 into what's called an interleaved orbit. From that new position, the ground track – or the strip of Earth that Jason-3's instruments see as the satellite travels around the planet – will run in between the ground tracks of successive orbits for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich. Jason-3 will keep measuring sea level height from the interleaved orbit, although it will no longer serve as the official reference sea level satellite. But by continuing to collect sea level data, Jason-3 will essentially double the number of measurements seen by each pass of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, helping to greatly increase the spatial resolution of sea level measurements provided by both satellites.
• December 13, 2021: For the second year in a row, the cooler sister to El Niño showed up at the winter party in the Eastern Pacific. La Niña is expected to stick around until at least spring 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere. 21)
- Part of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle, La Niña appears when energized easterly trade winds intensify the upwelling of cooler water from the depths of the eastern tropical Pacific, causing a large-scale cooling of the eastern and central Pacific ocean surface near the Equator. These stronger than usual trade winds also push the warm equatorial surface waters westward toward Asia and Australia. This dramatic cooling of the ocean's surface layers then affects the atmosphere by modifying the moisture content across the Pacific. This La Niña coupling of the atmosphere and ocean alters global atmospheric circulation and can cause shifts in the path of mid-latitude jet streams in ways that intensify rainfall in some regions and bring drought to others.
- In the western Pacific, rainfall can increase dramatically over Indonesia and Australia during La Niña. Clouds and rainfall become more sporadic over the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, which can lead to dry conditions in Brazil, Argentina, and other parts of South America and wetter conditions over Central America. In North America, cooler and stormier conditions often set in across the Pacific Northwest, while weather typically becomes warmer and drier across the southern United States and northern Mexico. (These and other trends are reflected in the map lower in this story.)
- "This moderate strength La Niña can be seen in the Sentinel-6 data as an area of lower-than-normal sea level along and below the Equator in the central and eastern Pacific," said Josh Willis, a climate scientist and oceanographer at JPL. He noted that the deep trough (blue) above the Equator is not the La Niña water mass; it is a shift in the North Equatorial Counter Current, which tends to strengthen during La Niña events.
- "This La Niña probably means bad news for the American Southwest, which should see lower than normal rainfall this winter," Willis said. "This La Niña may not be a whopper, but it's still an unwelcome sign for an area already deep into a drought."
- The La Niña event that started in late 2020 fits into a larger climate pattern that has been going on for nearly two decades—a cool (negative) phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). During most of the 1980s and 1990s, the Pacific was locked in a PDO warm phase, which coincided with several strong El Niño events. But since 1999, a cool phase has dominated. The long-term drought in the American Southwest coincides with this trend, Willis noted.
- In a report released on December 9, 2021, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center noted that sea surface temperatures in November in the eastern tropical Pacific ranged from 0.7 to 1.2 degrees Celsius below the long-term average and 0.9°C below average in the Niño 3.4 region of the tropical Pacific (from 170° to 120° West longitude). Forecasters predicted La Niña conditions would persist through Northern Hemisphere winter, with a 60 percent chance that the ocean would transition back to neutral conditions during the April through June period.
- This La Niña is the first to be observed by Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, which was launched in November 2020. "The new satellite is giving us a great picture of this La Niña," Willis said. "With the public release of the mission's climate-quality data, we are now in a position where Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich can soon take over the climate record of sea level rise, which goes all the way back to the early 1990s."
- Engineers and scientists have spent the past year calibrating and analyzing data from the new satellite against the existing Jason-3 mission. The team is ensuring that the new, more advanced data correlate properly with long-term records. New, high-resolution Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich data sets were released at the end of November 2020.
• November 29, 2021: Sea-level rise is one of the most immediate consequences of climate change, as highlighted recently through urgent pleas from leaders of island nations at the COP26 summit. Global measures of sea-level rise are imperative to underpinning global policy and for strategies to protect coastlines and low-lying lands. Measuring tiny differences in the height of the sea surface from space is no easy task – but that's exactly what the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is doing. And, after a year of exhaustive testing, this new mission is now delivering the world's most accurate data on sea-level rise. 22)
- Launched on 21 November 2020, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich uses the latest radar altimetry technology, developed by ESA, to advance the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that began in 1992 by the French–US Topex-Poseidon satellite and that were followed by the Jason series of satellite missions.
- With the importance of monitoring sea-level rise so high on the global agenda, numerous organisations have been involved in making Copernicus Sentinel-6 the gold standard reference mission to take the record of sea-surface height measurements into the future, and to do this with greater precision than ever before.
- So while Sentinel-6 is one of the European Union's family of Copernicus missions, its implementation is the result of an exceptional cooperation between the European Commission ESA, Eumetsat, NASA and NOAA, with support from the CNES French space agency.
- Tarawa Kiribati Figure description continued: Kiribati is one of the lowest-lying nations in the world, with many of the country's atolls and coral islands rising no higher than 2 m above sea level – making them extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Kiribati has already seen growing damage from storms and flooding. In 1999, two of the nation's unpopulated islets, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea, disappeared underwater entirely.
- The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate on sea level rise states that the global mean sea level is likely to rise between 0.29 m and 1.1 m by the end of this century. While this may not sound like a lot, small island nations, including Kiribati, will face particularly devastating consequences.
- Small changes in sea-level rise will not only cause flooding, erosion, soil contamination and coral degradation, but will ultimately shrink more of Kiribati's land area – displacing many of its inhabitants.
- It is vital that over the coming decades, the changing height of Earth's sea surface continues to be closely monitored. Set to launch in November, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite will accurately measure changes in global sea level. Mapping up to 95% of Earth's ice-free ocean every 10 days, it will provide key information on ocean currents, wind speed and wave height for maritime safety.
- This new satellite will assume the role as a reference mission, continuing the ‘gold standard' record for climate studies started in 1992 – extending the legacy of sea-surface height measurements until at least 2030. For more information, visit the Copernicus Sentinel-6 website.
- Back on Sentinel-6 page (Ref. 22): Eumetsat – the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, is responsible for operating the satellite and for making the data available to users.
- The first data products, which were low-resolution products, were released in June. This was an important step in the transition to the higher-resolution products being released today. The data have been used for weather forecasting and seasonal forecasting models, and to forecast the development and track of hurricanes.
- Sentinel-6's Poseidon-4 altimeter was designed to bring new high-resolution Ku-band synthetic aperture radar measurements into the altimetry reference time series. It, therefore, delivers simultaneous low-resolution measurements and high-resolution measurements. The low-resolution measurements are matched with measurements from the mission's predecessor, Jason-3, and, therefore, critical to ensuring continuity, and the enhanced high-resolution data can then be offered with absolute confidence.
- To make sure that differences between the historical low-resolution time series and the new data from Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich are fully understood, a 12-month tandem flight has been taking place. This involves Sentinel-6 flying 30 seconds behind its predecessor satellite, Jason-3, following the same ground track.
- Following months of careful testing, the stream of Copernicus Sentinel-6 high-resolution data are now available.
- Eumetsat's ocean altimetry program manager, Julia Figa Saldana, said, "Experts from around the globe have closely examined and validated the data, confirming that the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission is robust, precise and highly reliable. By cross-calibrating Sentinel-6 against its predecessor Jason-3 to within 1 mm, we ensure that the 30-year record of mean sea level, as captured by satellite radar altimeters, continues uninterrupted.
- "The data released today is critical for monitoring the impact of climate change on Earth's oceans."
- ESA's Sentinel-6 mission scientist, Craig Donlon, added, "Measurements of sea-level rise provide a unique but integrated view of climate change since a warming ocean expands and increased melting of ice on land both lead to an increase in sea level.
- "Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich securely brings a new synthetic aperture radar measurement technique into the reference altimeter time series for the first time. This allows Sentinel-6 to provide improved sea state and wind speed measurements, enhanced capabilities for river and lake hydrology applications while maintaining the stability of sea-level rise estimates. These measurements provide evidence that is critical to develop and implement robust societal policy for our future."
- ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-6 project manager, Pierrik Vuilleumier, noted, "The collaboration with NASA, EUMETSAT, NOAA and CNES has, today, come to fruition with the timely release of mission products to operational users, providing both continuity with previous reference missions and new high-resolution synthetic aperture radar products. The Poseidon-4 altimeter's digital technology brings unprecedented level of performance."
- "While Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is exceeding expectations in orbit, we are busy with its follow on, Sentinel-6B. The satellite is now at IABG's facilities in Ottobrunn, Germany, undergoing an environmental test campaign that will run through until next March. In the middle of the year it will be put into storage until we prepare it for launch at the end of 2025."
• June 21, 2021: Following liftoff last November and more than six months spent carefully calibrating the most advanced mission dedicated to measuring sea-level rise, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is now operational – meaning that its data are available to climate researchers, ocean-weather forecasts and other data users. 24) 25)
- Sentinel-6 is one of the European Union's family of Copernicus missions but its implementation is the result of an exceptional cooperation between the European Commission ESA, EUMETSAT, NASA and NOAA, with contribution from the CNES French space agency. The mission comprises two identical satellites launched five years apart: Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launched on 21 November 2020 and Copernicus Sentinel-6B, which will be launched in 2025.
- Sea-level rise is a key indicator of climate change so accurately monitoring the changing height of the sea surface over decades is essential for climate science, for policy-making and, ultimately, for protecting the lives of those in low-lying regions at risk.
- Using the latest radar altimetry technology, developed by ESA, this new mission will advance the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that began in 1992 by the French–US Topex-Poseidon satellite and then the Jason series of satellite missions.
- Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will soon pick up the baton and extend this dataset – a dataset that is the ‘gold standard' for climate studies.
- Julia Figa Saldana, ocean altimetry programme manager at EUMETSAT, said, "We have been flying Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich on the same orbit as the current altimetry reference mission, Jason-3, for the past six months so that the satellites have the same ‘view' of the ocean.
- "Experts from around the world have collaborated intensively over the past six months, despite the workplace constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, to cross-calibrate their data to ensure accuracy. The data are now being processed at EUMETSAT in Darmstadt, Germany, from where the satellite is also being controlled, and from where the data are released to ocean and weather forecasting users."
- Craig Donlon, ESA's Sentinel-6 mission scientist, said, "Building on a long line of European heritage dual-frequency altimeter missions, Sentinel-6's Poseidon-4 altimeter was designed to bring new high-resolution Ku- band synthetic aperture radar measurements into the altimetry reference time series.
- "To manage the transition from Jason-3's lower resolution measurements to Sentinel-6's high-resolution products with confidence, Poseidon-4 acquires both conventional low-resolution measurements simultaneously with high-resolution synthetic aperture radar measurements. The high-resolution products will be available later this year. We are really pleased to see that the data from Sentinel-6 show great performance based on validation by independent measurements on the ground."
- The Permanent Facility for Altimetry Calibration on the island of Crete in Greece is home to a transponder (CND1) that is key to this validation, ensuring that Sentinel-6's low-resolution data are the same as that of Jason-3. The transponder receives the Sentinel-6 radar signal, which is amplified and transmitted back to the satellite providing a well-characterized external calibration source.
- Dr Donlon explained, "Measurements from the CDN1 transponder show that the absolute difference between measurements from Sentinel-6 and Jason-3 is less than 2 mm, which is remarkable for two independent satellites operating at an altitude of 1330 km.
- "Establishing the differences between Sentinel-6 and Jason-3 is important if stability in the sea-level rise time series from satellite altimetry is to be maintained with low uncertainties."
- Nadya Vinogradova-Shiffer, NASA program scientist for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, said, "The release of this data marks the beginning of a new Sentinel era of ocean satellite altimetry for the NASA science community and the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team, who are excited, ready, and eager to expand nearly three decades of discoveries in ocean and climate science."
- As of 22 June 2021, two data streams of low-resolution sea-surface height are available to the public. The first is available within hours of Sentinel-6's Poseidon-4 altimeter collecting it and the second stream comes a couple of days after it is acquired. The difference in when the products become available balances accuracy with delivery timeliness for tasks like forecasting the weather or helping to monitor the formation of hurricanes.
- The third data stream, which is slated for distribution later this year or early next year, will be the most accurate.
- European Commission's Director for Space, Matthias Petschke, said, "Preparing our resilience and adapting to sea-level rise as an effect of climate change is a top priority in the decades to come, as part of the European Green Deal. From scenarios published in 2015 for Cop21, we can observe that the sea-level rise phenomenon is accelerating faster than expected. It will affect our EU coasts in decades to come, this is a certainty, and this is critical for some European countries.
- "Jason missions, in the past, and now Copernicus Sentinel-6, are unique solutions to give us accurate information on this trend, observing and monitoring it accurately, as well revealing this alarming acceleration of the rise."
• February 8, 2021: In November 2020, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. Now, months later, the satellite has successfully passed what is known as the ‘in-orbit verification phase', where its equipment is switched on and the instruments' performance is checked. 26)
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is the first of two identical satellites to provide critical measurements of sea-level change. The satellite carries a new digital altimeter, Poseidon-4, that uses dedicated onboard processing to return even more precise measurements of the height of the sea surface.
- In the satellite's early days post-launch, the dedicated flight control team at ESA's Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, took meticulous care of the new Sentinel in what is known as the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP). Once completed, ESA's mission control team handed over command and control of the satellite to EUMETSAT – Europe's weather and climate satellite organization – who took over responsibility of commissioning, routine operations and distribution of the mission's vital data.
- On 27 January, ESA along with Sentinel-6's key partners, including Airbus, Thales Alenia Space, EUMETSAT, NASA, French Space Agency CNES and NOAA, completed the satellite's ‘in-orbit verification phase'.
- One of the tests performed included cross-calibrating the satellite's altimeter data with measurements from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 and Jason missions. These tests are completed at ESA's Permanent Facility for Altimetry Calibration (PFAC) in Crete, Greece, where the use of transponders are used to receive and re-transmit radar pulses back to the satellite in space to verify its performance.
- These measurements have been used to demonstrate that the altimeter measurements are performing to expectation.
- Robert Cullen, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Payload and System Manager at ESA, said, "From our preliminary analyses, the altimeter significant wave height and range uncertainty are significantly better compared to the previous Sentinel-3 and Jason-3 missions."
- Luisella Giulicchi, Copernicus Sentinel-6 System Manager at ESA, responsible for coordinating the satellite's in-orbit verification phase, added, "We found all satellite subsystems to be working in perfect order. The satellite's newly-deployed GNSS Precise Orbit Determination receiver, which combines both GPS and Galileo constellations signals, shows an outstanding preliminary performance, along with the rest of the navigation systems on board the satellite."
- "Since 18 December, Sentinel-6 has been in its final orbit, trailing just 30 seconds behind Jason-3. This particular trailing formation is required for 12 months before Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will take over from Jason-3 as the operational reference mission."
More about Copernicus Sentinel-6
- Rising seas are top of the list of major concerns linked to climate change. Monitoring sea-surface height is critical to understanding the changes taking place so that decision-makers have the evidence to implement policies to help curb climate change and so that authorities can take action to protect vulnerable communities.
- The first sea-surface height ‘reference' measurements were supplied by the French–US Topex-Poseidon satellite, which was followed by three successive Jason missions. They show that since 1993 the global sea level has risen, on average, by just over 3 mm every year. Even more worryingly, over the last few years the global ocean has risen, on average, by 4.8 mm a year. Copernicus Sentinel-6's role is to continue this legacy of critical measurements.
• December 15, 2020: Just like your mobile phone, satellites themselves rely on satellite navigation to find their way in space. Thanks to a new ESA-developed receiver, the recently-launched Sentinel-6 is making use of Europe's Galileo as well as the US GPS system, a fact set to sharpen the accuracy of its sea level rise measurements. 27)
- Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, launched on 21 November, is the world's next radar altimetry reference mission, set to extend the legacy of sea-surface height measurements until at least 2030.
- Developed by ESA with strong NASA support as part of Europe's Copernicus program, the satellite is now being commissioned for operation by EUMETSAT, Europe's weather and climate satellite organization.
- Sentinel-6 is also the first Sentinel satellite equipped with a dual-system satnav receiver, which can make use of both GPS and Galileo signals, to perform mission-critical Precise Orbit Determination (POD).
- The ESA-developed receiver's first results became available on 26-27 November and underwent initial analysis by the Navigation Support Office based at ESA's ESOC control center in Germany, immediately revealing a very good data quality.
- The receiver uses GPS and Galileo signals either separately or in combination. With Europe's satnav system the world's most precise, the Galileo POD measurements in particular were excellent, outperforming the GPS measurements by a factor of two in terms of accuracy.
- Werner Enderle, Head of the Navigation Support Office comments: "While validation activities are still ongoing, the initial results of our Sentinel-6 precise orbit determination based exclusively on Galileo data are very exciting."
- Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6's ESA Mission Scientist, explains that being able to more precisely fix the satellite's position in space is crucial to mission success: "Sentinel-6 is a radar altimeter, measuring sea-surface height by sending down radar pulses to be bounced back to space, deriving the distance to the ocean surface to a few centimeters.
- "But to know how far the signals have travelled we need to know the satellite's orbital height to a high level of certainty. Such a high-performance satnav receiver that includes high-quality Galileo signals is likely to give us this information very precisely. Combined with the very low onboard noise of the altimeter instrument and its onboard processing facility, these are promising signs for the working mission to come."
First flight of novel satnav receiver
- Flying in space for the first time, the multi-constellation PODRIX was designed through an ESA General Support Technology Program project, led by ESA navigation engineer Pietro Giordano: "We were driven by requirements from ESA's Earth Observation program: many future Sentinels will be employing these receivers as a common procurement. That put the onus on us to design and qualify a good product. The receivers are also designed for use all the way up to geostationary orbit.
- "We're not surprised to hear about the quality of its output, but also happy, because you can never be 100% sure something works until it is flying.
- "This project has turned out to be an excellent example of synergy between ESA domains, because we in the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality worked closely with our Earth Observation counterparts, while also getting advice from the Directorate of Navigation, the ultimate source of knowledge on Galileo signals."
New generation of satnav circuits
- The receiver contains one essential ingredient in turn: the fourth generation Advanced GPS/GLONASS Application Specific Integrated Circuit, AGGA-4 for short, funded by the Earth Observation Directorate and built by Airbus with the support of ESA's Microelectronics section.
- "Earlier versions of the AGGA relied solely on GPS and Russia's GLONASS, but with this generation we set out to make use of the other satnav constellations now available, including Europe's Galileo," says microelectronics specialist Roland Weigand, AGGA-4's design support engineer. "The more signals in space you can process then the better your accuracy becomes.
- "It basically works like any other GNSS receiver chip, except we have to make more effort in space, to overcome radiation, take account of signal dynamics and make use of distant signals that have been weakened by passage through Earth's atmosphere.
- "In fact, precise positioning was not the main design driver – the starting point was actually radio-occultation, where scientific and weather information is derived from GNSS signals' passage through the atmosphere – but based on the multiple AGGA-4s already in space, they also function well for positioning. It's motivating to know, after a long, development effort, that our customers are happy."
• December 10, 2020: Launched less than three weeks ago, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite has not only returned its first data, but results also show that it is functioning far better than expected. Thanks to its new, sophisticated, altimetry technology, Sentinel-6 is poised to deliver exceptionally precise data on sea-level height to monitor the worrying trend of sea-level rise. 28) 29)
- Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was lofted into orbit on 21 November from VAFB in California. After it had sent back its first signal showing that it was alive and well in space, ESA's Operations Centre in Germany took care of the satellite's first few days in orbit before handing it over to EUMETSAT for commissioning, and eventual routine operations and distribution of data.
- The satellite carries Europe's latest radar altimetry technology to extend the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that began in the early 1990s.
- On 30 November, flight operators switched on Sentinel-6's Poseidon-4 altimeter instrument, which was developed by ESA. Analyzing its initial data, specialists were astonished by the quality. These first data were presented today, by way of three main images, at the European Space Week.
- The image of Figure 26 shows some preliminary results of sea-surface height. The data are overlaid on a map showing similar products from all of the Copernicus altimetry missions: Jason-3, Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B. The background image is a map of sea-level anomalies from satellite altimeter data provided by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service for 4 December 2020. The Sentinel-6 data products were generated on 5 December.
- ESA's mission scientist for Copernicus Sentinel-6, Craig Donlon, explained, "We can already see that the satellite is delivering incredible data, thanks to the digital architecture of Poseidon-4 and the inclusion of simultaneous high-resolution synthetic aperture radar processing and conventional low-resolution mode into altimetry for the first time. This gives us the opportunity to make measurements with much finer synthetic aperture radar techniques that can be compared to Jason-3 to understand the improvement of the climate record."
- "Importantly, we can also see that there is very little noise in the data, so we have extremely clean data to work with."
- The set of images in Figure 28 of Russia's Ozero Nayval Lagoon and surrounding rivers show multiple views from Copernicus satellites. The first is a ‘camera-like' image from Sentinel-2; the second is a radar image from Sentinel-1; and next is from Sentinel-6 in its conventional ‘low-resolution' mode, which does not reveal a lot of information. However, by processing the altimetry data using fully-focussed synthetic aperture techniques usually used for imaging radar data, the resulting image reveals exceptional detail, highlighting the power of the instrument (click on image for more information).
- Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA's Earth Observation Programs said, "We are delighted with these first results and proud to see our ESA-developed radar altimeter is working so well. Nevertheless, Copernicus Sentinel-6 is a mission that has been built in cooperation with the European Commission, EUMETSAT, NASA, NOAA and CNES – with all parties playing essential roles that make this mission the success we are seeing today."
- Another surprising result suggests that the satellites position in space can be better understood than previously thought. A radar altimeter derives the height of the satellite above Earth by measuring how long a transmitted radar pulse takes to reflect from Earth's surface. Sentinel-6 therefore carries a package of positioning instruments, including a system that can make use of both GPS and Galileo signals. Remarkably, the addition of Galileo measurements brings an improvement in orbit determination quality – which adds to the overall performance of the mission.
More about Copernicus Sentinel-6
- Rising seas are at the top of the list of major concerns linked to climate change. Monitoring sea-surface height is critical to understanding the changes taking place so that decision-makers have the evidence to implement appropriate policies to help curb climate change and so that authorities can take action to protect vulnerable communities.
- The first sea-surface height ‘reference' measurements were supplied by the French–US Topex-Poseidon satellite, which was followed by three successive Jason missions. They show that since 1993 the global sea level has risen, on average, by just over 3 mm every year. Even more worryingly, over the last few years the global ocean has risen, on average, by 4.8 mm a year.
- While the Copernicus Sentinel-6's role is to continue this legacy of critical measurements, the satellite carries new digital altimeter technology with dedicated onboard processing that will return even more precise measurements of the height of the sea surface.
- Sentinel-6 brings, for the first time, synthetic aperture radar into the altimetry reference mission time series. To ensure that the multi-satellite data time series remains stable, Sentinel-6 delivers simultaneous conventional low-resolution mode measurements, that are similar to measurements from Jason-3, as well as the improved performance of the synthetic aperture radar processing that yields high-resolution along-track measurements. A 12-month tandem flight, where Sentinel-6 flies just 30 seconds behind Jason-3, will be used to compare measurements from the two independent satellites in order to extend the sea-level climate record with confidence.
- A video of Copernicus Sentinel-6 in action is provided in Figure 58.
• November 2020: EUMETSAT took over flight operations at its mission control center in Darmstadt on 24 November, as Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was drifting towards Jason-3, the current operational high-precision ocean altimetry mission, EUMETSAT's Sentinel-6 Flight Operations Manager Gareth Williams said. 30)
- With Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B, this is the third Copernicus ocean-monitoring satellite operated by the organization on behalf of the European Union.
- "We will stop the drift of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and keep it flying 30 seconds behind Jason-3 on the same orbit to allow for cross calibration of the data from their instruments," Williams said. "This will ensure the seamless continuity of a unique sea level record.
- "We will also switch on all instruments, acquire and pre-process first mission data and share them with ESA and NASA for evaluation, leading to the completion of satellite in-orbit commissioning in January."
- EUMETSAT's Sentinel-6 System Commissioning Manager Conrad Jackson said that, in parallel, the organization would work with ESA, NASA, NOAA, CNES and scientists from Europe and the United States to calibrate the products and validate the end-to-end Sentinel-6 system.
- "This will be achieved in June, with release to all users of near-real-time products equivalent to those of those of Jason-3."
- Another six months will be necessary to validate and release the highest accuracy sea level products used for climate monitoring. Then, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will replace Jason-3 as the reference high-precision ocean altimetry mission, Jackson said.
• November 25, 2020: It was a spectacular launch on 21 November, as the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was lifted into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After taking care of the Earth observation spacecraft during the critical early days and making it at home in its new environment, ESA is ready to hand over control to EUMETSAT. 31)
- About an hour after a flawless launch, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth separated from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and for the first time it was flying on its own.
- Soon after, ESA's mission control in Germany received the very first signals from the fledgling mission. This vital moment, the ‘acquisition of signal', is what teams had been waiting for, because it meant they could lock on to the satellite with ground stations across the globe and receive its ‘telemetry' - data providing information on the mission's health.
- Of course, controlling missions is a two way conversation. We receive information about the spacecraft and all the observational data it has gathered in the signals it beams down to Earth, but we also speak to it, sending commands. Once teams at ESA's ESOC Operations Centre had sent their first commands, it was time to declare "we have a mission!".
- "It's always tense in the moments before we capture the first signal, until then, it's too soon to celebrate as we haven't yet taken control," explains Jose Morales, Head of Earth observation missions at ESA.
- "Once our screens lit up green, we knew that Sentinel-6 was in our hands and it is then that the real work began getting the spacecraft ready for an important life in space."
- In the days since launch, known as the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP), the flight control team at the Agency's Operations Centre took meticulous care of the new Sentinel. These early days came with many challenges, as the new spacecraft began using its solar arrays for power, woke up to test its core functioning and performed two maneuvers to initiate its drift towards its final, operational orbit, all the while at its most vulnerable to the hazards of space.
- Now the LEOP is complete, ESA's mission control team is handing over command and control of the satellite to EUMETSAT – Europe's weather and climate satellite organization – who will complete the final ‘orbit acquisition' and take on responsibility for commissioning, routine operations and distribution of the mission's vital data.
- "The critical Launch and Early Orbit Phase went smoothly and is now complete, and we are thrilled to pass on this mission to our friends at EUMETSAT, who will distribute its data on Earth's changing oceans," explains Simon Plum, ESA's Head of Mission Operations. "I am particularly proud of the dedication shown by everyone involved at all stages of this important mission. Their commitment has gone above and beyond expectation and truly demonstrates how seriously they take their roles."
- "It's testament to the hard work and expertise of our teams at ESOC that in the midst of a global pandemic they continue to safely carry out some of the hardest jobs in space."
The Sentinel-3 SRAL (SAR Radar Altimeter) derived RA (Radar Altimeter) is the principle payload instrument; its scope is measuring geophysical parameters (SSH, wind speed and SWH). To retrieve these data, additional information is required from a number of supporting instruments: a DORIS receiver (recurrent from CryoSat-2) to enable precise orbit determination and a Microwave Radiometer to provide the measurement of water vapor necessary to correct the altimeter data. Orbit tracking data are also provided by a GPS receiver (partially recurrent from Sentinel-3b and that in its own right can is capable of POD), and a LRA (Laser Retro-Reflector), that supports POD. Star trackers are used to meet the science objectives needed from the altimeter SAR data. An additional GPS receiver, GNSSRO, provided by NOAA and developed by NASA/JPL, will be dedicated to radio-occultation measurements.
POS4 (Poseidon-4 SAR Radar Altimeter)
The Poseidon 4 is a fully redundant normal incidence Ku- and C- band pulse-width limited SAR Radar Altimeter. It has the capability of acquiring phase coherent measurements of a surface allowing synthetic-aperture processing to improve along-track sampling and reducing range noise and SWH (Significant Wave Height) noise.
The POS4 (Poseidon-4) architecture is composed of two cold redundant DPUs (Digital Processing Units), two cold redundant RFUs (Radio Frequency Units), a dual-frequency antenna and three RF Switches. With the improvements of the SAR method over pulse-width limited processing demonstrated, the agencies requested industry to investigate the possibility of operating both SAR and pulse-width limited modes at the same time over all open ocean improving science return. The pulse/burst characteristics of this new mode of operation, named ILM (InterLeaved Mode, open burst scenario), allows the reference LRM (Low Resolution Mode) data series to be continued , whilst providing science users with a unique global data set with reduced uncertainties (SAR).
Pulse-width limited LRM data are obtained from single pulse/burst allowing retrieval of geophysical parameters (elevation, wind speed and SWH) over single shot scales between about 1 km and 5 km (Figure 30 left). It has to be noted that the footprint is not only proportional to the satellite altitude and pulse length, but also to the SWH, due to non-nadir reflections (e.g. without waves the Jason-1/2 footprint is 2 km, with 15 m waves it becomes about 12 km.
Filtering the data acquired along the track wrt the rates of change of phase (SAR), are obtained slices of range rings coherent in phase between them (Fig. 30 right). This allows improvement of the along-track resolution to about 300 m, independently of the SWH.
When all available beams are collected, the range is corrected for Doppler Shift effects and range migration, they can be output as a stack file and multi-looked to form the Level 1b echo waveform. Artificially focusing the echoes (Figure 31) improves the overall SNR (rejecting all reflections from non-nadir sources) and thus improves performances.
The SNR can be even more improved by averaging pulses since the noise on the signal is independent in each gate until a limit defined by the Walsh PRF (Pulse Repetition Frequency) bound. In order to increase the number of echoes per unit time the transmit bursts are interleaved with receive bursts in what is known as Open Burst transmission, Figure 32, third chronogram.
The cons of the Open Burst transmission vs the Closed Burst are: that the data volume and the power demand is increased and it is needed to vary the PRF (Pulse Repetition Frequency) around the orbit.
The RA PRF is fixed during an Rx tracking cycle but adjusted along the orbit (around 9.1 kHz) to cope with the altitude changes. Therefore, the PRF is constant in reception to avoid a Tx/Rx pulse overlap. To assure continuity, the PRF is a close multiple of the Jason-3 one: LRM is an embedded subset (decimation). The fact that the S-6 PRF is lower than the S-3 one (Figure 32) will allow a better sensibility determining the range delay of the leading edge of the echoes. This is so because the impulse widening (Figure 33) will be less severe therefore almost all off-nadir Doppler beams will be useable (e.g. not too broad to resolve low SWH due to "toe effect").
To reduce the large SAR data volume produced on-board, an on-ground-reversible RMC (Range Migration Correction) is implemented, whose effects can be seen in Figure 34. The useful range is more or less reduced to about half. As a consequence, the data rate is reduced by a factor of 2. The process is reversed on-ground.
The DPU handles several measurements modes. One is the Acquisition Mode, operating only in Ku-band to look for echo in a defined altitude range. The other modes are combinations of Open and Closed Loop mode with generation of LRM or SAR or raw SAR I&Q data or combination of these, see Table 2.
The Closed Loop tracking mode makes use of an automatic echo recognition and tracking. Instead the Open Loop tracking mode exploits an on-board DEM (Digital Elevation Map) to adapt the PRI (PRI=1/PRF) for the elevation of inland waters.
Nominally, the following modes are used, according to Table 2 indications:
• LRM: Interleaved in Closed/Open Loop tracking mode with only LRM data
• LX: Interleaved in Closed/Open Loop tracking mode with LRM + SAR I&Q data.
• LRMC: Interleaved in Closed/Open Loop tracking mode with LRM + SAR RMC data.
Observation planned for
Average data rare
LRM (Low Resolution Mode)
Ocean (mostly used)
LRM/SAR with RMC
LRM/SAR I&Q Raw
LRM/SAR I&Q + RMC
In the measurement modes, each of the red lines in Figure 32 is made by combination of Ku & C-band pulses which pattern varies depending on the mode. One echo is received every pulse transmission at fixed PRI (~1/9.1 kHz). The majority of these are measurement pulses but there are also C-band pulses transmitted in order to retrieve a correction for ionospheric path delay, CAL pulses to trace the instrument behavior.
A blanking capability is part of the baseline design of POS-4 and AMR-C as any RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) between both would lead to performance impacts.
In addition, the instrument design relies on state of the art digital hardware improving on-board calibration strategy whilst reducing the manufacturing time.
The current POS-4 design theoretical performances have been assessed and are provided in Figure 35 that demonstrates S-6 will improve on its required performances for both LRM and SAR processing.
AMR-C (Advanced Microwave Radiometer-Climate Quality)
AMR-C is a 3-frequency radiometer provided by NASA/JPL (funded by NOAA) enhanced to minimize the effects of instrument drift which is a key design driver for overall mission success. 32) It will be a direct successor to AMR instrument on Jason-3. 33)
AMR-C comprises a nadir-viewing offset Gregorian telescope with a one meter primary aperture feeding a single broad-band corrugated horn, followed by an Orthomode Transducer and two identical three-band radiometers observing the H and V linear polarizations of emission from the ocean surface and the atmosphere. One radiometer is treated as a cold spare. The radiometer is calibrated every second via a Dicke switch and a calibration noise source employing noise diodes.
Once per month, a cold sky calibration is expected to be executed rotating the satellite with a pitch maneuver (nose up). It is also possible to execute a supplementary calibration by rotating the secondary reflector about the axis of the feed horn to focus on sequentially a reflector pointing to cold space or a warm calibration target. The calibrations are done when the satellite is over land. - The electronics and feed horn are thermally stabilized via a circuit controlled by the spacecraft and a radiator that dissipates heat excesses.
AMR-C incorporates AMR (Advanced Microwave Radiometer) and the experimental HRMR (High Resolution Microwave Radiometer). AMR measures the radiation reflected by the oceans at three different frequencies (e.g. 18.7 / 23.8 / 34.0 GHz) to calculate the water vapor path delay corrections. HRMR is an experimental radiometer receiver measuring high frequency channels (e.g. 90 / 130 / 168 GHz) for better resolution in coastal regions.
The signals measured are noise power expressed as a noise temperature in units of Kelvin. The measured noise temperature referenced to the AMR / HRMR feeds are referred to as the TA (Antenna Temperature).
An Antenna Pattern Correction is applied to the TA measurements to subtract noise temperature contributions from outside the main beam, yielding the Level 1 data product, main beam brightness temperature. A retrieval algorithm using empirically derived coefficients yields the Level 2 data product, the wet path delay estimate (cm) used in the RA range correction.
The AMR-C brightness temperatures are not only used for the RA water vapor path delay correction but are also fundamental climate data record from which are derived ocean measurements of wind speed, water vapor, cloud liquid water, rain rate, and sea surface temperature.
The AMR-C receiver is based on heritage from the previous missions with addition of a HRMR (High Resolution Microwave Radiometer) and a SCS (Supplemental Calibration System). The radiometer channels at 18.7 GHz, 23.8 GHz, and 34.0 GHz are inherited from previous AMRs and constitute the radio frequency subassembly (RFA). The 18.7 GHz channel estimates ocean surface components in observed brightness temperature, the 23.8 GHz channel estimates water vapor, and the 34.0 GHz channel estimates cloud liquid. HRMR consists of bands at 90 GHz, 130 GHz, and 168 GHz. The SCS is an additional calibration system in order to meet the level 3 payload requirement of long term radiometric stability. In addition to the RFA, HRMR, and SCS subassemblies, the AMR-C instrument also contains a parabolic mirror in the Reflector Subassembly (RSA), and the Electronics Unit (EU) in the Electronics Subassembly (ESA). 34)
A block diagram of the AMR-C instrument is shown in Figure 37. HRMR sits at the focus of the primary reflector and the lower frequency channels in the RFA are offset. There are two identical lower frequency radiometer units in the AMR-C system, a nominal unit (H-polarization) and a redundant unit (V-polarization) shown in green. All three of these receivers have a separate EU containing the Power Converter Unit (PCU), a Data Acquisition and Control Unit (DAC), and a Housekeeping Unit (HKU). The DACs of the AMR-H and AMR-V units are crossed-strapped to the SCS shown in purple, which has fully redundant Control Mechanism Interface Electronics (CMIE) units, both of which can control either or both motors in the Standard Dual Drive Actuator (SDDA). Please note that crossstrapping in Figure 37 is only shown for the EU-H unit to reduce clutter in the figure. HRMR is in turquoise.
AMR-H and AMR-V Receiver Design: Signal is relayed to the receiver through a circular feed horn. The signal is split by the Ortho-mode Transducer (OMT) into H and V units, nominal and redundant, respectively, although the polarization is arbitrary. The redundant unit will be used as a cold spare. From the OMT a diplexer divides the signal into 18/24 GHz and 34 GHz channels and the 18/24 GHz channel is then spilt into separate 18 and 24 GHz channels. A detector diode along with an ADC converts the signal to a digital signal, which is then relayed to the spacecraft and transmitted to the ground. A model of the receivers is shown in Figure 38 and an internal block diagram is shown in Figure 39. In operation, a Dicke switch at the receiver waveguide output toggles between the antenna signal and 50 W load for a differential measurement.
Input Return Loss (over channel passbands)
Dicke Switch Isolation
Channel Center Frequency
Center Frequency Tolerance
Center Frequency Knowledge
Channel Noise Bandwidth
Noise Bandwidth Tolerance
±1 dB max
±1 dB max
±1 dB max
System Noise Figure
≤ 6.2 dB
≤ 6.5 dB
≤ 6.6 dB
System Gain/Temperature Coefficient
Post-detector Circuit Video (3 dB) Bandwidth
≥ 75 kHz
≥ 75 kHz
≥ 75 kHz
Backend Noise (relative to radiometric noise)
Input Dynamic Range
2.7 to 750 K
Digitizer Sampling Rate
≥ 200 ksample/s
A fully characterized noise source at the input of each receiver is used for internal gain stability calibration. Each noise source contains 3 sets of redundant diodes that can be used separately or together. A block diagram for the noise source is shown in Figure 40. The noise signals are coupled at the receiver input using a directional coupler. The level 6 receiver requirements flow from the level 4 instrument requirements. These requirements are summarized in Table 3.
HRMR Receiver Design: Previous AMRs were limited to a 25 km diameter footprint on the ocean. In order to provide higher spatial resolution to improve the coastal zone measurement accuracy to a 3-5 km diameter footprint, a THz radiometer, HRMR, has been added to the AMR-C instrument. HRMR includes receiver bands at 90 GHz, 130 GHz, and 168 GHz and is based on radiometers designed for airborne and cubesat missions, the HAMMER (High-frequency Airborne Microwave and Millimeter-wave Radiometer), 35) and the TEMPEST (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems), respectively. 36) HRMR has been designed to attach to three mounting points at the focus of the RSA to minimize AMR beam blockage. The feedhorn and millimeter wave modules will be assembled and delivered on a radiatively-cooled plate, which will be enclosed for better thermal shielding.
HRMR will interface with EU hardware identical to the AMR units through its digitizer driver unit (DDU). This receiver utilizes low noise, high gain Indium Phosphide (InP) MMICs to amplify incoming signal in order to detect it. 37) Like the AMRs, HRMR signal is relayed through a feedhorn into diode detectors for each frequency. The calibration noise source is integrated in the multi-chip module (MCM). It has two noise diodes and directional couplers to provide stable calibration references. Additional calibration and stability is provided by the integrated Dicke switch that toggles between the antenna and reference load at 2 kHz rate to reduce NEDT, see Figure 47. A model of the HRMR receivers is shown in Figure 41 and design parameters are shown in Table 2.
Channel Center Frequency
Center Frequency Tolerance
Brightness Temperature Sensitivity
Deviation from White Noise Level Over 60 secs
The SCS (Supplemental Calibration System): Due to long term fluctuations seen in the noise source from the Jason-3 mission 38) a SCS has been included on AMR-C. This subsystem is designed to turn the secondary mirror every 5-10 days so that the AMR receivers look at a warm load at ambient temperature (~200 K) and a cold load (cold sky, ~3 K), shown in Figure 42. As shown in Figure 37, the SCS only calibrates the AMR receivers, not HRMR, whose signal path is instead at the focus of the primary. These calibrations will be done over land in order to maximize observation times over the ocean.
The SCS is driven by an SDDA motor, which is a block redundant, single fault tolerant mechanical/electronic assembly that provides a rotary output with fully characterized torque, speed, and current relationships. The gearbox couples dual spur gears for the first stage with dual harmonic gears in the final stage. The redundancy in the SDDA means that no single mechanism failure within the assembly will prevent the output from rotating. The SDDA power is supplied separately from the rest of the instrument. The mechanism control is cross-strapped to both the H and V flight computers. During launch the secondary mirror is held in place by the Launch Lock Mechanism (LLM).
Thermal Modeling: The AMR-C instrument will have a PID-controlled thermal loop run by the spacecraft. The preliminary thermal design was simulated using a P-regulator and modeling shows that the receiver will meet its thermal requirements detailed below. The thermal analysis was done for three different cases: a hot winter, a hot summer, and a cold summer. Results are shown for several simulations lasting the duration of one orbit, which is 112 minutes long. Figure 43 models the AMRH receiver thermal stability over one orbit showing that it can be kept to within ~0.04 °C/min. Similarly, Figure 44 shows the modeled thermal stability for HRMR. HRMR has no requirement, but the goal for this receiver is ≤ 0.1 °C of variation over an orbit. Peaks and minimums in these models are a result of the satellite's orbit as it transitions in and out of the sun. In Figure 45, models show the thermal variation within the AMR-H receiver will be ± 2.5 °C. Figure 46 shows the thermal variations between the feed horn assembly (FHA) and the AMR-H receiver. The requirement is these thermal variations not exceed 10 °C and models show that this difference is well within the model's margin.
HRMR Prototype: The HRMR 90 GHz prototype's measured noise temperature is ~500 K. The noise equivalent differential measurement (NEDT) was measured for both 90 and 160 GHz. The NEDT is a measure of sensitivity that determines the threshold for the minimum differential temperature that the system can detect. This measurement is taken by looking at the difference between the receiver looking at a blackbody radiator and a 50 W reference load using a Dicke switch. The results of the NEDT measurements for 90 and 160 GHz prototype receivers are presented in Figure 47. The NEDT at 90 GHz is in green and the NEDT at 160 GHz is in blue. At the Dicke switch frequency of 2 kHz, the NEDTs ~0.1 K, which provides a 50% margin on the sensitivity requirement.
Further measurements made on the prototype indicate that the power and mass are within the margins of their allotted budgets. These results are presented in Table 5.
Deviation from white noise over 60 s (K)
Current Status and Future Work
The AMR-C team plans to deliver two flight instruments, one for each mission ~5 years apart. The instrument has passed the preliminary design review (PDR) and Phase C has begun. Hardware testing will begin in the summer of 2017 and the critical design review (CDR) will be in the fall of 2017. Instrument I&T for the first flight module will start in the Spring of 2018 for delivery to payload I&T in early 2019. Instrument I&T for the second flight module will begin in early 2019 after the delivery of the first flight module, and begin payload I&T in fall 2019. Sentinel-6 is expected to launch in 2020.
The DORIS DGXX-SEV receiver, carried on-board S-6, is a direct evolution of the DGXX-S of Jason-3. It is part of an overall system which is able to provide tracking measurements for precise orbit determination, and time-transfer. The DORIS system comprises a network of 55 ground beacons, a number of receivers on several satellites in orbit and in development, and ground-segment facilities. It is part of the IDS (International DORIS Service), which also offers the possibility of precise localization of user-beacons.
DORIS is an up-link radio frequency tracking system based on the Doppler principle. Each beacon in the ground network broadcasts stable two frequencies, at S-band and VHF (2036.25 MHz and 401.25 MHz respectively). Every 10 seconds the receiver delivers the Doppler shift data calculated using the on-board ultra-stable oscillator (USO with a stability of 5 x 10-13 over 10 to 100 seconds) as a reference; essentially this enables the line- of-sight velocity to be determined. The use of two frequencies allows the ionospheric effects to be compensated and also enables the ionospheric total electron content to be estimated. The set of radial velocities from the dense network of precisely located beacons is rich set of tracking data.
The DORIS's USO sync signal is used also to drive the GNSS-POD and RA pinpointing on the on-board DEM used in Open Loop.
The DORIS instrument consists of a receiver and processing unit (BDR), which is composed of 2 identical functional chains in cold redundancy. Both share a common RF signals distribution unit (DRF) which also contains a (cold) redundant USO (Ultra Stable Oscillator). And a dual-frequency antenna.
The DORIS system includes the possibility of encoding information on the uplinked signals, and three privileged master beacons, at Toulouse, Kourou and Papeete, provide such uplink services. Data uplinked from these stations (which is updated weekly and used by all DORIS instruments in orbit) include the coordinates of the stations, earth rotation parameters, etc.
The DORIS is not only used for POD, but also for geodesy and geophysics applications: measuring the continental drift, fitting the local geodesic network, monitoring the geophysical deformations, determining the rotation and the gravity parameters of the Earth and contributing to the international reference system. 39)
GNSS-POD (Global Navigation Satellite System-Precise Orbit Determination)
The GNSS-POD receiver is a recurring PODRIX model in common procurement of the Sentinel program (S-1, S-2, S-3 and S-6). A PODRIX unit is a multi-constellation (GPS & Galileo) multi-frequency (L1/E1, L2 and L5/E5a) GNSS receiver. The GNSS on-board system is composed of two cold-redundant receivers, each including one tri-frequency (L1/E1, L2 & L5/E5a) receiver with 16 dual frequency channels. Two Extended Patch Excited Cup POD antennas are provided, one per single electronic box.
GNSS-RO (GNSS-Radio Occultation)
GNSS-RO is a CFI from NASA/JPL. As a secondary mission instrument, it is used to measure physical properties of the atmosphere such as temperature, pressure and water vapor, via detecting the occultation of GNSS signals as they pass through the limb of the atmosphere.
It is composed of: one non-redundant EU (Electronics Unit) and three antennas (POD antenna, RO fore antenna (3 x 2 array), RO aft antenna (3 x 4 array).
To measure radio occultations, three antennas are necessary. One antenna is used for POD, while two other antennas are directed at the Earth's limb to collect RO data. One of these antennas faces the fore of the spacecraft while the other faces the aft. These antennas enable tracking of the highly defocused rapidly shifting in frequency GNSS signal passing through the lower regions of Earth's atmosphere. The GNSS-RO uses the several high gain antennas, with digital beam forming to enable the occultation measurement of signals with lower level.
The GNSS-RO receiver has a configurable digital processing section enabling processing of multiple combinations of GNSS signals. It is able to track not only GPS but also GLONASS and can be configured to track additional GNSS signals. Most of the low-level signal processing will be done inside multiple reconfigurable FPGAs, which can be updated postlaunch to track new in-band GNSS signals as they become available.
The ability to track multiple GNSS satellite signals allows the capability to operate during the transition to GPS-III and past the 2020 retirement of the legacy signals. This capability significantly improves the quality and quantity of the radio occultation measurements from previous missions. The expected instrument data rate is about 53 kbit/s.
REM (Radiation Environment Monitor)
The REM instrument has been baselined lately in 2016 as a payload experiment for S-6. The REM is installed externally on the fore panel and provides all elements necessary to monitor in flight protons, electrons, and heavy ions fluxes.
Payload Performances of Sentinel-6
Primary mission expected performances: As indicated, the general end-user requirement for S-6 is to "perform at least as well as Jason-2" in terms of RMS Error (RMS-E) in the retrievals of SSH (Sea Surface Height), SWH (Significant Wave Height) and wind speed. This requirement was broken down into the individual components that make up the measurement of SSH: altimeter range, orbital altitude, atmospheric corrections, and sea state bias. An analysis was done on the current state of the art, expected performances of the POS-4 altimeter, and current POD performances led to the establishment of the S-6 requirements listed in Table 2, with some more challenging goals to be met for all products later in the mission. Overall, the S-6 requirements for the RSS (Root Sum Square) sea surface height error for LRM measurements closely meet the established Jason-2 performances, whereas SAR measurements will clearly outperform Jason-2, because of the reduction in measurement noise. The only exceptions are the orbit performances, which are kept conservatively similar to the Jason-3 requirements. However, the performance goals of orbit determination are likely to be met and are at least equal to Jason-3 performances.
Although the requirements for SWH, wind speed, and backscatter have been kept somewhat less restrictive than the claimed Jason-2 performance, they are still vastly tighter than the requirements for Jason-3 and Sentinel-3, which are regarded as far too cautious.
Altimeter range RSS
Total RSS sea
Significant wave Height
50 cm or 10%h
12 cm or 5%h
50/40/40 cm or 10%h
20 cm or 4%h
15 cm +5%k
10 cm +5%b,k
Legend to Table 6: a After ground processing, averaged over 1 s, for 2 m wave height. b Goals from CNES system performances budget study. c Derived from Ku- and C-band range difference, averaged over 200 km. d Equal to Jason-2 actual performance. e Could also be expressed as 1% of SWH. f The RSS values for the NTC products given in (Ref.40) have been corrected in (Ref. 9) . g NRT/OGDR orbit from real-time DORIS on-board ephemeris. h Whichever is greater. i After calibration to Jason-1. j After cross-calibration with other altimeter missions. k For 0.5–8 m SWH range. l For 3-20 ms-1 wind speed range.
RO (Secondary Mission) Expected Performances
The GNSS-RO will observe occultations over the SLAT (Straight line Tangent Altitude) range from - 300 to 500 km, where the SLAT is the minimum elevation above the reference ellipsoid of an imaginary straight line connecting S-6 and the occulting GNSS satellite. This is negative in the lower atmosphere since the refraction bends the ray behind the horizon. As a secondary payload, the GNSS-RO will not be able to observe the upper atmosphere up to orbit altitude due to data size limitations.
The occultation tracking rates are 50 Hz for GPS and 100 Hz for GLONASS in the lower atmosphere, while higher up a 1 Hz tracking is foreseen. Open loop tracking is enabled from a configurable SLAT altitude downwards. With no ultrastable oscillator available, occultation processing will rely on single differencing with respect to a reference GNSS satellite to be tracked simultaneously.
Based on simulations with a constellation of 31 GPS and 24 GLONASS satellites and assuming an antenna coverage of ± 55º in azimuth, the S-6 satellite will be observing about 1100 occultations per day, about 600 from GPS and about 500 from GLONASS. Contrary to e.g. the EPS (EUMETSAT Polar System) and the EPS-SG (EPS-Second Generation), S-6 will fly in a non-sun-synchronous orbit, providing measurements at various local solar times, cycling through a full 24 h every 118 days.
Product Processing and Evaluation
Interleaved SAR mode: As indicated, the Poseidon-4 radar altimeter system can operate in conventional pulse-width limited (LRM) and SAR processing simultaneously. Hence, both Brown echoes and SAR radar echoes will be generated simultaneously in the ground processing. This is loosely called the interleaved operating mode, because the transmit and receive pulses are "interleaved" just like in LRM altimetry but at a much higher rate (9 kHz), Figure 32. This is in contrast to the burst mode operation of CryoSat-2 and Sentinel-3, which transmit and receive alternatively, each approximately one-third of the time. This high rate interleaved pulsing of the Jason-CS altimeter has the following advantages:
• The original (Jason-2 and -3) low-resolution processing is maintained simultaneously to higher-resolution products, thereby ensuring full continuity of services with Jason-3, based on pulse-width limited processing with an along-track resolution of approximately 7 km.
• The range noise of SAR processed altimeter echoes will be reduced by a factor of 1.7 compared to Sentinel-3 since more independent echoes are received owing to the continuous pulsing of Jason-CS compared to the burst mode of Sentinel-3 (and CryoSat-2).
• The availability of much higher along-track resolution (approximately 300 m) and, when averaged, a lower range measurement noise will enable an enhanced use especially in coastal areas.
• This enables continuous and direct comparison of LRM and SAR measurements (which is neither available from Sentinel-3 or CryoSat-2) and makes Sentinel-6 a reference for all SAR altimetry missions.
Thanks to the interleaved operating mode, S-6 will bring some unique opportunities for cross-calibrating and cross-validating LR and HR altimetry, housed on the same platform, working from the same altimeter echoes, just using different processing techniques. Also, it will be the first time that we will be able to fully process on-ground 100% of the echoes that would otherwise be averaged on-board.
Once received on ground, the raw data from the mission will be processed by the responsible institutions into NRT (Near Real Time) data and other products (Geo Physical Data Records) which are then distributed to the operational users. In addition to the European Space Agency, ESA, the French Space Agency, CNES, was involved in the previous missions as well as the world's weather and climate forecasting agencies EUMETSAT and, in view of the transatlantic cooperation, NOAA. They are also responsible for the establishment of forecasts of long term changes which affect climate and society (e.g. agriculture).
On the contrary of the NRT product, off-line products need longer post processing. Off-line means few days or weeks after data take. For Sentinel-6, NRT data will be downlinked at every X-band contact. NRT data will not be older than 3 hours under the provision that the ground station network setup (which is under customer responsibility) will be compliant.
Altimeter and Radio Occultation Product Levels: Different levels of products are distinguished in terms of readiness in the various stages of the processing:
• Level 0 products consist of raw data after restoration of the chronological sequence for each instrument and removal of data overlaps at dump boundaries and relevant quality flags related to the reception and decoding;
• Level 1 products maintain the same time structure and sampling as the Level 0. The instrument measurements are converted into recognized engineering units. For what regards the Altimeter, calibration data (radiometric and spectral calibration as well as geometric registration to geodetic Earth coordinates) are appended (Level 1a) or applied (Level 1b). Geolocation data are also appended.
In case of S-6, Level 1a products will include all the recorded individual echoes in the time domain, whereas Level 1b provides the synthesized waveforms (without geophysical corrections). A Level 1b-S product, similar to what is produced for Sentinel-3 is not envisioned; however, software will be provided to derive these from the Level 1a product after performing Delay Doppler processing.
For what regards the Radio Occultation, at Level 1a, phase and amplitude data as well as the satellite orbits of the occultation are provided. The Level 1b products will include the main variables for assimilation, such as the vertical bending angle profile.
• Level 2 products contains the geophysical measures, combined with auxiliary input data from other sources (such as geophysical corrections coming from meteorological models) to yield directly useful geophysical parameters, e.g. SSH , SWH and wind speed. The auxiliary data parameters and geophysical corrections are appended. For altimetry, Level 2 products contain measurements of SWH, wind speed, and SSH, at a high rate of 20 Hz, which are then averaged along-track to form one averaged measurement at 1 Hz. These products are thus equivalent to the GDRs (Ground Data Records) for the Jason missions. — For Radio Occultation at Level 2, temperature and water vapor profiles are provided.
• Level 2P products are enhanced Level 2 Altimeter products, aimed at harmonization between missions, e.g. applying the same geophysical corrections across the missions, or applying externally derived biases to the data in case they have not been applied yet in the operational Level 2 products.
• Level 3 products contain geophysical parameters that have been spatially and/or temporally resampled or corrected. This may include averaging over multiple orbits.
• Level 4 products are thematic data, and are generally gridded parameters that have been derived from the analysis of the satellite measurements but are not directly derived from them. These products are elaborated by service providers and users and are not delivered by the S-6 program.
Product Services and Generation Delays: Based on the synthesis of the operational applications, various product services are identified. Table 6 and Table 7 match the applications with the appropriate product levels. Three different latencies are considered: NRT (Near-Real-Time), STC (Short-Time-Critical), and NTC (Non-Time-Critical). The latencies govern the quality of the auxiliary data used in the product generation; therefore better-quality data are available after a longer elapsed time.
According to the generation latencies, the product services are:
• The Near Real Time Altimetry service [ALT-NRT, Note: equivalent to the OGDR (Operation Geophysical Data Record)service in the Jasons] delivers Level 2 products within 3 hours after data acquisition. Because of the reduced time allowed for the generation, it will often be necessary to rely on alternative data sources (e.g. predicted or climatological values) for auxiliary data like altimeter range corrections. The quality of the orbit determination will also be reduced. Nonetheless, the algorithms used for the production of Level 2 data from Level 1 are expected to be the same. In addition, to provide NRT data in the fastest possible way, data will not be provided in consolidated products with a length of half an orbit (as is the case for STC and NTC), but will rather be provided in smaller granules. The main objective of this product service is to provide information on the sea-state (SWH and wind speed, but also on SSH). It is mainly used for marine meteorology, ocean-atmosphere air-sea transfer studies and real-time operational oceanography.
• Short Time Critical Altimetry service [ALT-STC, Note: equivalent to IGDR (Interim Geophysical Data Record) service in the Jasons] delivers Level 2 products within 36 hours after data acquisition which enables consolidation of some auxiliary or ancillary data (e.g. preliminary orbit determination). These products will be produced using the same algorithms as the NTC products and they will have the same data structure. The main objective is to support operational oceanography, i.e. improve ocean state analysis, forecasts, and hindcasts produced by NOP (Numerical Ocean Prediction) systems assimilating sea surface height measurements derived from a multi-mission constellation of spaceborne altimeters. Level 3 products contain also geophysical parameters that have been spatially and/or temporally resampled or corrected. This may include averaging over multiple measurements. They are primarily intended for ocean modelling services. At this point, Level 3 data will only be provided with short time critical latency. This product service is mainly used for operational oceanography and geophysical studies.
• Non Time Critical Altimetry service [ALT-NTC, Note: equivalent ot GDR (Geophysical Data Record) service in the Jasons] delivers Level 2 products within typically 2 months after data acquisition, allowing the further consolidation of some auxiliary data (e.g. precise orbit data, radiometer calibration) leading to higher accuracy of SSH products. These products will be subject to regular reprocessing as better information about instrumentation biases, precise orbits, and geophysical corrections become available. The main objective of this product service is to provide information on ocean topography and mean sea level in support of ocean and climate monitoring services and it is mainly used for geophysical studies and operational oceanography.
• Near-Real-Time Radio Occultation product service (RO-NRT) delivers Level 1b and Level 2 products within 3 hours after sensing, for direct assimilation into NWP models. It will be provided by the US partners of the program. The main objective of the RO-NRT product service is to provide bending angles or refractivity profiles, which contain information on atmospheric temperature, pressure, and humidity. Further Level 2 products are e.g. tropopause height, planetary boundary layer height, and ionospheric information.
• Non-Time-Critical Radio Occultation product service (RO-NTC) delivers Level 1b and Level 2 products within 60 days after sensing. Longer time series of the instrument are used to obtain improved precise orbit determination and clock data, as well as using updated auxiliary data (e.g. precise orbit and clock data for the GNSS satellites). The main objective of the RO-NTC is to deliver higher precision version of the NRT data, making this service particularly valuable for climate studies, including assimilation in reanalysis models. Two parallel services will be providing these data. They both start from Level 0 and thus allow estimating uncertainties introduced by the processing set-up. On the European side, processing up to Level 1b is performed at EUMETSAT and the ROM SAF (Radio Occultation Meteorology Satellite Application Facility) is responsible for processing these data further to Level 2 (and also to Level 3 within their climate service). The other RO-NTC service will be provided by the US partners of the program.
The naming of these services (characterized by product latencies) are in common with those of the Sentinel-3 ocean surface topography mission.
Numerical weather prediction
In summary, the Sentinel-6 mission, consisting of two consecutively flying altimeter satellites, Sentinel-6 A and Sentinel-6 B, will ensure the continuation of the decades-long time series of sea level as recorded by TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3, from 2020 onwards. Since the RA (Radar Altimeter) will be able to serve simultaneously conventional LRM altimeter, and a SAR altimeter measurements, it does not only provide compatibility with the previous missions, that is vital for an accurate cross-calibration, but it will also improve sampling of the coastal areas with a much higher resolution, and providing the ability to measure closer to the coast line. Stability and performances of the measurements will be also improved, wrt the predecessors, to cope with day by day more demanding scientific needs.
The Sentinel-6 mission will be the first of the "reference missions" for which a wide range of Level 1, Level 2P, and Level 3 products will be provided. These are not only aiming at operational meteorological and oceanographic modelers, but are also giving the altimeter specialist the opportunity to advance further altimeter technologies that will be provided by the unique interleaved mode altimeter flown on the Sentinel-6 satellites.
Sentinel-6 will also include a secondary radio occultation payload, which makes use of GPS and GLONASS satellites occultations to measure physical properties of the atmosphere such as temperature, pressure and water vapor.
Sentinel-6 mission data, measuring how much heat is in the ocean, pinpointing where it is, and map its movement through ocean currents, will help the scientific community to better understand climate and predict future climate change.
• November 19, 2020: Learn about sea-level rise and Copernicus Sentinel-6. 43)
• November 18, 2020: Tracking sea-level change. 44)
• November 12, 2020: As global temperatures continue to rise, coastal areas will increasingly bear the brunt of storm surges and more frequent, intense weather events. Sea level is rising at 3.6 cm per decade and this trend is accelerating, compounding the threats faced by coastal communities: with every centimeter another three million people are put at risk of annual coastal flooding. Scheduled to be launched on 21 November, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is set to continue the long-term record of sea-level measurements that are needed for protect our coasts. 45)
• November 6, 2020: As preparations for the launch of Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich continue, the team at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has bid farewell to the satellite as it is sealed from view within the two half-shells of its Falcon 9 rocket fairing. Liftoff is now set for 21 November at 17:17 GMT (18:17 CET; 09:17 PST). 46)
- Since its arrival at the launch site at the end of September, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been thoroughly tested, fuelled and joined to the launch adapter. Now safely tucked up inside the rocket fairing that will protect it during liftoff, the next steps include roll out to the launch tower and fitting to the rest of the rocket.
- Once launched, this new mission will take the role of radar altimetry reference mission, continuing the long-term record of measurements of sea-surface height started in 1992 by the French–US Topex Poseidon and then the Jason series of satellite missions.
- Sea-level rise is one of the biggest threats we face as a consequence of climate change.
- Satellite data show that global mean sea level has risen, on average, by just over 3 mm every year since 1993. Even more worryingly, this rate of rise has increased in recent years. The role of Copernicus Sentinel-6 is not only to continue this critical ‘gold standard' record for climate studies, but also to measure sea-surface height with greater precision than before.
- Accurately monitoring the changing height of the sea surface over decades is essential for climate science, for policy-making and, ultimately, for protecting the lives of those in vulnerable low-lying areas.
- 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.
• October 26, 2020: Teams at ESA's mission control centre are getting ready to ensure a new Sentinel-6 Earth Observation mission safely arrives in its correct orbit, from where it will map, measure and monitor rising sea levels after its launch on 10 November. 48)
- The 1.5-ton Copernicus Sentinel-6 ‘Michael Freilich' spacecraft will launch on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg, California, in the United States. Once safely in orbit, ESA's ESOC Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, will take over the reins.
- Over the subsequent three days, the Sentinel-6 mission control team will guide the fledgling mission through the ‘Launch and Early Orbit Phase' – the riskiest phase of its life.
- Like a bird hatching from the egg, this is the period in which the new spacecraft unfurls its solar arrays, wakes up to test its core functioning and maneuvers into the correct path, all the while at its most vulnerable to the hazards of space.
- Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is the first of two spacecraft being launched to ensure the ‘continuity of service' of the Jason missions currently providing data on Earth's changing oceans, but reaching the end of their lives. This adds a layer of complexity to already tricky operations, as the new Sentinel needs to fly in tandem with the Jason-3 spacecraft it will replace, until the latter is moved to a different orbit.
- The target orbit for the new mission is a polar orbit bringing the mission high over Earth's icy poles at about 1300 km altitude. Timing here is extremely important, as Sentinel-6 needs to fly in tandem with the Jason 3 spacecraft, falling into position behind it with a separation of just 30 seconds, or about 230 km.
- Teams at ESOC will perform two orbit maneuvers during the first few days, edging the spacecraft closer to where it needs to be. But as Sentinel-6 takes over from Jason, so too will EUMETSAT, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, take over the satellite command and control from ESA, after the third day.
- Once the Sentinel is through the critical early phase and drifting towards its target orbit, EUMETSAT will complete the final ‘orbit acquisition' and take on responsibility for commissioning, routine operations and distribution of the mission's vital data.
Simulating Success During a Pandemic
- Control teams are used to preparing for unexpected eventualities. In fact a large part of the job involves going through real-time simulations in which they are subjected to all manner of potential problems - from all kinds of spacecraft anomalies to computers crashing and even avoiding space debris.
- Now, they are rehearsing in the midst of a very real pandemic on Earth.
- "Of course, preparation for the Sentinel-6 launch has been affected by COVID-19, and we have put all measures in place to ensure success in this difficult situation. We must always keep a safe distance from each other, we have plexiglass walls separating everyone in the control rooms, masks worn at all times and the numbers of people on site are limited to those strictly needed to support operations" explains Massimo Romanazzo, Spacecraft Operations Manager for the mission.
- "We're doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our teams and fortunately, despite the odds, we have not experienced any delays and are on schedule for launch on 10 November."
- The team has two more ‘contingency simulations' to go in which problems are injected into the launch sequence, and two final ‘nominal simulations' in which everything runs according to the ‘nominal' operations timeline.
- A couple of days before launch, they will then go through the dress rehearsal when they run through the launch sequence, but this time connected to the spacecraft in Vandenberg sitting on top of its Falcon 9, getting live data from the satellite.
Supported from the Ground
- Sentinel-6 will join a fleet of Earth-monitoring spacecraft in one of the busiest space highways, low-Earth orbit. ESA's Space Debris Office based at ESOC will be on hand throughout the critical early days, monitoring and calculating the risk of collisions with swirling space debris and advising on how best to keep the mission safe.
- ESA's Kiruna ground station will track the spacecraft's first days, while the North Pole Satellite Station in Alaska is expected to catch its first signals from space after separation from the launcher.
- 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.
- "The Sentinel-6 mission perfectly brings together the best aspects of operating in space; international cooperation, cutting edge technology and a desire to bring benefits down to Earth from the unique vantage point of near-Earth orbit," says Simon Plum, ESA's new Head of Mission Operations.
- "And guiding a spacecraft through its most risky early days showcases what teams at ESOC do best as they put their years of training and experience to practise, all the while under additional constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am very proud to join a team with such professionalism and commitment, and look forward to my first launch here at ESA mission control."
• October 19, 2020: With less than a month to go before a SpaceX Falcon 9 takes Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich into orbit to chart sea-level rise, preparations are forging ahead at the launch site. 49)
- 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.
- Satellites tracking the changing height of the ocean surface show that global mean sea level has risen, on average, by just over 3 mm every year since 1993. Even more worryingly, this rate of rise has increased in recent years. The role of Copernicus Sentinel-6 is not only to continue this critical ‘gold standard' record for climate studies, but also to measure sea-surface height with greater precision than before.
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Poseidon-4 dual-frequency (C- and Ku-band) radar altimeter uses an innovative interleaved mode that has improved performance compared to previous satellite altimeter designs.
- A radar altimeter derives the height of the satellite above Earth by accurately and precisely measuring the time it takes for a transmitted radar pulse to reflect Earth's surface. The returned echo pulse from the sea surface provides a waveform that is processed to determine sea-surface height (from the radar range), the significant wave height (from the slope of the waveform leading edge) and the surface wind speed from the ocean roughness (determined from the strength of the power returns).
- The processor then steers synthetic azimuth beams to specific locations on Earth's surface to build a ‘stack' of waveforms that can be processed to achieve better performance. Unfocussed SAR processing improves the precision of sea-surface measurements by averaging the stack of waveforms to reduce noise and improves the along track resolution from several kilometers to about 300 meters. SAR processing requires a much larger amount of data than conventional altimetry and the satellite implements a dedicated onboard processor to reduce the data rate that will be sent back to ground by a factor of two.
- The unique capability of the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Poseidon-4 altimeter is designed to ensure enhanced continuity with the long time series of measurements from the Topex Poseidon and Jason series of satellite altimeters.
• October 16, 2020: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will soon be heading into orbit to monitor the height of the ocean for nearly the entire globe.50)
- Preparations are ramping up for the Nov. 10 launch of the world's latest sea level satellite. Since arriving in a giant cargo plane at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been undergoing final checks, including visual inspections, to make sure it's fit to head into orbit.
- Surviving the bone-rattling vibrations and sounds of launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket is just the start of the mission. Once in orbit some 830 miles (1,336 km) above Earth, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has the task of collecting sea level measurements with an accuracy of a few centimeters (for a single measurement) for more than 90% of the world's oceans. And it will be making those measurements while repeatedly flying through an area of intense radiation known as the South Atlantic Anomaly, which can scramble electronics.
- That's why engineers and researchers have put Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich through a battery of tests to ensure that the spacecraft will survive launch and the harsh environment of space. But how will the mission pull the rest of it off? With sophisticated instruments, global navigation satellites, and lasers - lots of lasers. They'll all work in concert to enable the spacecraft to carry out its task of observing the ocean.
- Given the challenges and goals of the mission, the satellite's moniker is appropriate: It's named after noted researcher Dr. Michael Freilich, the former director of NASA's Earth Science Division.
- A second spacecraft identical to Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025 to continue the work after its sibling's five-and-a-half-year prime mission ends. Together, the satellites make up the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, which is a partnership between NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Collectively, the satellites will add a decade's worth of the most accurate satellite data yet on ocean height to a nearly 30-year record documenting how our oceans are rising in response to climate change. Both spacecraft will also collect data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help to improve weather forecasts as well as atmospheric and climate models.
- This is where those sophisticated instruments, global navigation satellites, and lasers come in.
How It Works
- To accurately measure extremely small variations in sea level, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will rely on a suite of three instruments that provide scientists information to determine the spacecraft's exact position in orbit.
- One component of this positioning package is the laser retroreflector array, a set of nine small, precisely shaped mirrors. Lasers are directed at them from ground stations on Earth, and they reflect the (harmless) beams right back to their point of origin. These laser-emitting ranging stations, as they're known, calculate how long the laser takes to bounce off the reflectors and return, which gives the distance between the satellite and the station.
- Another instrument, the Global Navigation Satellite System - Precise Orbit Determination (GNSS-POD), tracks GPS and Galileo navigation signals. Researchers analyze these signals to help determine the satellite's position.
- The third instrument in the positioning package is the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS). It analyzes radio signals from 55 global ground stations, measuring the Doppler shift of the radio signals' frequencies to determine the 3D position of the satellite over time. When used together, these instruments provide the data needed to ascertain the precise position of the satellite, which in turn helps to determine the height of the sea surface.
- On the science side are two instruments that work in concert to determine sea level and a third that collects atmospheric data. The Poseidon-4 radar altimeter measures ocean height by bouncing radar pulses off the water's surface and calculating the time it takes for the signal to return to the satellite. However, water vapor in the atmosphere affects the propagation of the radar pulses from the altimeter, which can make the ocean appear higher or lower than it actually is. To correct for this affect, an instrument called the Advanced Microwave Radiometer for Climate (AMR-C) measures the amount of water vapor between the spacecraft and the ocean.
- "AMR-C is the next generation of AMR instruments, and it includes new components that will enable more accurate measurements along coastlines and throughout the mission," said Shannon Statham, AMR-C integration and test lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
- For information on the atmosphere, the Global Navigation Satellite System - Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) instrument gathers data on temperature and humidity that can help to improve weather forecasts. GNSS-RO analyzes radio signals from global navigational satellites as they appear and disappear beyond the limb of the Earth - the hazy blue edge of the atmosphere that's visible when you look at pictures of our planet in space. As these radio signals travel through different layers of the atmosphere, they bend and slow by varying degrees. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and satellites like it use GNSS-RO technology to measure these changes, enabling researchers to then extract atmospheric characteristics like temperature and humidity at different altitudes.
- All the instruments, power systems, telecommunications - everything that makes Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich tick - must work together to accomplish the mission's science goals, much like the international partners have worked together to get this satellite ready for launch.
- "Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is a great contribution to climate change, environment monitoring, and to the Digital Twin Earth. Sentinel-6 is a reference model of the cooperation between the U.S. and Europe on Earth Observation and represents a good foundation for future projects," said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director of Earth Observation Programs.
• September 25, 2020: The world's latest ocean-monitoring satellite has arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California to be prepared for its Nov. 10 launch. The product of a historic U.S.-European partnership, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft touched down at Vandenberg in an Antonov 124 aircraft at around 10:40 a.m. PDT (1:40 p.m. EDT) on Sept. 24 after a two-day journey from an IABG engineering facility near Munich, Germany. 51) 52)
- "The spacecraft had a smooth trip from Europe and is in good shape," said Parag Vaze, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "Final preparations are under way to see the satellite safely into Earth orbit in a little under seven weeks."
- 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). 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.
- "It has been a long journey of planning, development, and testing for the mission team," said Pierrik Vuilleumier, the mission's project manager at ESA. "We are proud to work with our international partners on such a critical mission for sea level studies and are looking forward to many years of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich taking critical sea level and atmospheric data from orbit."
- Once in orbit, each satellite will collect sea surface height measurements down to the centimeter for more than 90% of the world's oceans. They'll be contributing to a nearly 30-year-long dataset built by an uninterrupted series of spacecraft that started with the TOPEX/Poseidon mission in the early 1990s and that continues today with Jason-3. Instruments aboard the spacecraft will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, help to track hurricanes, and bolster climate models.
- Although Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has already undergone rigorous testing, it will go through a final checkout at the SpaceX payload processing facility at Vandenberg to verify that the satellite is healthy and ready for launch.
- Once tests are complete, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be mounted atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex 4E. The launch is scheduled for 11:31 a.m. PST (2:31 p.m. EST) on Nov. 10.
• September 4, 2020: When the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launches this November, its primary focus will be to monitor sea level rise with extreme precision. But an instrument aboard the spacecraft will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, track hurricanes, and bolster climate models. 53)
- "Our fundamental goal with Sentinel-6 is to measure the oceans, but the more value we can add, the better," said Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "It's not every day that we get to launch a satellite, so collecting more useful data about our oceans and atmosphere is a bonus."
- A U.S.-European collaboration, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is actually one of two satellites that compose the Copernicus Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission. The satellite's twin, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025 to take over for its predecessor. Together, the spacecraft will join TOPEX/Poseidon and the Jason series of satellites, which have been gathering precise sea level measurements for nearly three decades. Once in orbit, each Sentinel-6 satellite will collect sea level measurements down to the centimeter for 90% of the world's oceans.
- Meanwhile, they'll also peer deep into Earth's atmosphere with what's called Global Navigation Satellite System - Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) to collect highly accurate global temperature and humidity information. Developed by JPL, the spacecraft's GNSS-RO instrument tracks radio signals from navigation satellites to measure the physical properties of Earth's atmosphere. As a radio signal passes through the atmosphere, it slows, its frequency changes, and its path bends. Called refraction, this effect can be used by scientists to measure minute changes in atmospheric physical properties, such as density, temperature, and moisture content.
- The precise global atmospheric measurements made by Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will complement atmospheric observations by other GNSS-RO instruments already in space. Specifically, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service meteorologists will use insights from Sentinel 6's GNSS-RO to improve weather forecasts. Also, the GNSS-RO information will provide long-term data that can be used both to monitor how our atmosphere is changing and to refine models used for making projections of future climate. Data from this mission will help track the formation of hurricanes and support models to predict the direction storms may travel. The more data we gather about hurricane formation (and where a storm might make landfall), the better in terms of helping local efforts to mitigate damage and support evacuation plans.
How It Works
- Radio occultation was first used by NASA's Mariner 4 mission in 1965 when the spacecraft flew past Mars. As it passed behind the Red Planet from our perspective, scientists on Earth detected slight delays in its radio transmissions as they traveled through atmospheric gases. By measuring these radio signal delays, they were able to gain the first measurements of the Martian atmosphere and discover just how thin it was compared to Earth's.
- By the 1980s, scientists had started to measure the slight delays in radio signals from Earth-orbiting navigation satellites to better understand our planet's atmosphere. Since then, many radio occultation instruments have been launched; Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will join the six COSMIC-2 satellites as the most advanced GNSS-RO instruments among them.
- "The Sentinel-6 instrument is essentially the same as COSMIC-2's. Compared to other radio occultation instruments, they have higher measurement precision and greater atmospheric penetration depth," said Chi Ao, the instrument scientist for GNSS-RO at JPL.
- The GNSS-RO instrument's receivers track navigation satellite radio signals as they dip below, or rise from, the horizon. They can detect these signals through the vertical extent of the atmosphere - through thick clouds - from the very top and almost all the way to the ground. This is important, because weather phenomena emerge from all layers of the atmosphere, not just from near Earth's surface where we experience their effects.
- "Tiny changes in the radio signal can be measured by the instrument, which relate to the density of the atmosphere," added Ao. "We can then precisely determine the temperature, pressure, and humidity through the layers of the atmosphere, which give us incredible insights to our planet's dynamic climate and weather."
- But there's another reason why probing the entire vertical profile of the atmosphere from orbit is so important: accuracy. Meteorologists typically gather information from a variety of sources - from weather balloons to instruments aboard aircraft. But sometimes scientists need to compensate for biases in the data. For example, air temperature readings from a thermometer on an airplane can be skewed by heat radiating from parts of the aircraft.
- GNSS-RO data is different. The instrument collects navigation satellite signals at the top of the atmosphere, in what is close to a vacuum. Although there are sources of error in every scientific measurement, at that altitude, there's no refraction of the signal, which means there's an almost bias-free baseline to which atmospheric measurements can be compared in order to minimize noise in data collection.
- And as one of the most advanced GNSS radio occultation instruments in orbit, said Ao, it will also be one of the most accurate atmospheric thermometers in space.
• On August 5, 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced in a statement the passing of Mike Freilich (1954-2020), passionate explorer and former director of NASA's Earth Science Division 54)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine statement about the passing of Michael Freilich
"Our planet has lost a true champion with the passing of Mike Freilich. NASA sends our condolences to his loved ones, and the entire NASA Family shares their loss.
"As the head of NASA Earth Science, Mike was known for his diligence and an unwavering commitment to accuracy and making sure the science was strong. His oversize passion for all things related to expanding knowledge about the complex systems of our planet saw an incredible diversity of missions launch on his watch. Mike never avoided the tough decisions, but his deep expertise and innate love of science helped our agency to innovate and expand the ways it observes our home planet.
"Mike's excellence as a scientist is well known. His dedication to oceanography and helping train the next generation of scientific leaders was inspiring. He won numerous awards throughout his career, and it was NASA's honor to join our colleagues at the European Space Agency, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to name the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission for him. This satellite will gather critical information about the oceans for which Mike had such an abiding passion.
"Mike wept openly as he signed the launch vehicle for ICESat-2, his last launch as Earth Science director. It was a testament to how much being able to work on missions that helped us to better understand our planet and improve life across it meant to him.
"At NASA, we pledge to carry on that work and build on the legacy that Mike has left us. His presence will continue to be felt across the agency and our planet, in space and in our hearts."
• July 21, 2020: Like students all over the world currently awaiting exam grades, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite has also been put through a series of strenuous tests leaving the eyes of the teams involved in this international mission set firmly on its final results. Happily, Sentinel-6 has passed with flying colors and engineers can now prepare it for shipment to the US for liftoff on a SpaceX Falcon-9, which is scheduled for 10 November. 55)
- Renamed in honor of Michael H. Freilich, who led NASA's work in Earth science, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will assume the critical role of monitoring sea-level change by extending the long-term measurement record of global mean sea level from space.
- With millions of people living in coastal communities around the world, rising seas are at the top of the list of major concerns linked to climate change. Monitoring sea-surface height is critical to understanding the changes taking place so that decision-makers have the evidence to implement appropriate policies to help curb climate change and for authorities to take action to protect vulnerable communities.
- Over the last three decades, the French–US Topex-Poseidon and Jason missions served as reference missions, and in combination with ESA's earlier ERS and Envisat satellites, as well as today's CryoSat and Copernicus Sentinel-3, they have shown how sea level has risen about 3.2 mm on average a year. More alarmingly, the rate of rise has been accelerating over the last few years. It is now rising at 4.8 mm a year.
- Now it is time for the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission to pick up the baton and extend this dataset that is the ‘gold standard' for climate studies – and following the positive outcome of the technical ‘qualification acceptance review' stating that the satellite has passed all of its tests, the satellite can be packed up for shipment to the launch site.
- Pierrik Vuilleumier, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-6 project manager, said, "This review is an important milestone and the plan now is to have the satellite packed up by the end of the month for shipment from IABG's center near Munich in Germany to the Vandenberg launch site in California in the US. Given the COVID-19 situation, all those involved have worked brilliantly to keep to schedule.
- "We plan to ship to Vandenberg on 23 September, following a few other reviews related to the readiness of the launch site and spacecraft operations."
- The mission, which comprises two satellites launched sequentially, is a true example of international cooperation: it has been jointly developed by ESA, NASA, EUMETSAT and NOAA, with support from CNES.
- Each satellite carries a radar altimeter, which works by measuring the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to Earth's surface and back again to the satellite. Combined with precise satellite location data, altimetry measurements yield the height of the sea surface.
- The satellites' instrument package also includes an advanced microwave radiometer that accounts for the amount of water vapor in atmosphere, which affects the speed of the altimeter's radar pulses.
• July 7, 2020: Over the course of nearly three decades, an uninterrupted series of satellites has circled our planet, diligently measuring sea levels. The continuous record of ocean height that they've built has helped researchers reveal the inner workings of weather phenomena like El Niño and to forecast how much the ocean could encroach on coastlines around the world. Now, engineers and scientists are preparing two identical satellites to add to this legacy, extending the dataset another decade. 56)
- Both spacecraft are a part of the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, a U.S.-European collaboration that aims to make some of the most accurate measurements of sea levels around the world. The first satellite to launch, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, will lift off in November. Its twin, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025. Both will assess sea levels by sending electromagnetic signals down to the ocean and measuring how long it takes for them to return to the spacecraft.
- "This mission will continue the invaluable work of accurately measuring sea surface height," said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA's Earth Science Division. "These measurements enable us to understand and predict sea level changes that will affect people living in coastal regions around the world."
- The satellite will build on efforts that began in 1992 with the launch of the TOPEX/Poseidon mission and that continued with three more missions over the years: Jason-1, OSTM/Jason-2, and Jason-3. Sentinel-6/Jason-CS aims to extend the nearly 30-year sea level dataset that these previous missions built by another 10 years.
- Measuring the height of the ocean gives scientists a real-time indication of how Earth's climate is changing, said Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The oceans absorb about 90% of the excess heat from the planet's warming climate. Seawater expands as it heats up, resulting in about a third of the modern-day global average sea level rise. Melting ice from land-based sources like glaciers and ice sheets accounts for the rest.
- To understand how rising seas will affect humanity, researchers need to know how fast this is happening, said Willis. "Satellites are the most important tool to tell us this rate," he explained. "They're kind of a bellwether for this creeping global warming impact that's going to inundate coastlines around the world and affect hundreds of millions of people."
- Currently, sea levels rise an average of 0.13 inches (3.3 millimeters) per year, more than twice the rate at the start of the 20th century. "By 2050, we'll have a different coastline than we do today," said Willis.
- "As more and more people move to coastal regions, and coastal megacities continue to develop, the impact of sea level change will be more profound on those societies," said Craig Donlon, mission project scientist at the European Space Agency.
• June 11, 2020: A team of engineers in the U.S. and Europe subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft to a battery of trials to ready it for liftoff later this year. 57)
- Once the state-of-the-art Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches in November, it will collect the most accurate data yet on sea level — a key indicator of how Earth's warming climate is affecting the oceans, weather and coastlines. But first, engineers need to ensure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of launch and of operating in the harsh environment of space. That's where meticulous testing comes in.
- At the end of May, engineers finished putting the spacecraft — which is being built in Germany — through a battery of tests that began in November 2019. "If it can survive all the abuse we deliberately put it through on the ground, then it's ready for space," said John Oswald, the mission's deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
- The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft is a part of the Copernicus Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, a joint U.S.-European effort in which two identical satellites will be launched five years apart. The spacecraft will join the Copernicus constellation of satellites that constitutes the European Union's Earth Observation Program. Once in orbit, each satellite will collect sea level measurements down to the centimeter for 90% of the world's oceans. The data will add to almost 30 years of information gathered by an uninterrupted series of joint U.S.-European satellites, creating an unprecedented — and unbroken — 40-year sea level dataset. The spacecraft will also measure the temperature and humidity of Earth's atmosphere, which can be used to help improve weather forecasts and hurricane predictions.
- These measurements are important because the oceans and atmosphere are tightly connected. "We're changing our climate, and the clearest signal of that is the rising oceans," said Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at JPL. "More than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is going into the ocean." That heat causes seawater to expand, accounting for about one-third of the global average of modern-day sea level rise. Meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets account for the rest.
- "For climate science, what we need to know is not just sea level today, but sea level compared to 20 years ago. We need long records to do climate science," said Willis.
- Six scientific instruments are key to that task. Two of them will work in concert to measure the distance from the satellite to the ocean's surface. That information — combined with data from three other instruments that precisely establish the satellite's position in orbit and a sixth that will measure vertical slices of the atmosphere for temperature and humidity — will help determine sea levels around the world.
Put Through Their Paces
- To ensure that the scientific instruments will work once they get into space, engineers sent the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich to a testing facility IABG) near Munich and ran the satellite through a gauntlet starting in November 2019.
- First up: the vibration test, where the engineers subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite to the kinds of shaking it will experience while attached to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasting into orbit. Then in December, engineers tested the spacecraft in a big vacuum chamber and exposed it to the extreme temperatures that it will encounter in space, ranging from 149 to minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit (65 to minus 180 degrees Celsius).
- The next two trials took place in late April and May. The acoustics test, performed in April, made sure the satellite could withstand the loud noises that occur during launch. Engineers placed the spacecraft in a 100 m2 chamber outfitted with enormous speakers. Then they blasted the satellite with four 60-second bursts of sound, with the loudest peaking around 140 decibels. That's like standing next to a jet's engine as the plane takes off.
- Finally, in the last week of May, engineers performed an electromagnetic compatibility test to ensure that the sensors and electronics on the satellite wouldn't interfere with one another, or with the data collection. The mission uses state-of-the-art instruments to make precise measurements, so the smallest interference could compromise that data.
- Normally, JPL engineers would help to conduct these tests in person, but two of the trials took place after social-distancing safety measures had been established due to the coronavirus pandemic. So team members worked out a system to support their counterparts in Germany remotely.
- To account for the nine-hour time-zone difference, engineers in California pulled shifts from midnight to 10 A.M. for several weeks, consulting with colleagues in Germany through phone calls, video conferences, chat rooms and text messages. "It was confusing sometimes, keeping all the channels and groups going at the same time in the middle of the night, but I was impressed with our team," said Oswald.
- The upshot of all that effort? "The tests are complete and the preliminary results look good," Oswald said. Team members will spend the next several weeks completing the analysis of the test results and then preparing the satellite for shipment to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for launch this fall.
• May 4, 2020: During these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease-19) lockdown, trying to work poses huge challenges for us all. For those that can, remote working is now pretty much the norm, but this is obviously not possible for everybody. One might assume that like many industries, the construction and testing of satellites has been put on hold, but engineers and scientists are finding ways of continuing to prepare Europe's upcoming satellite missions such as the next Copernicus Sentinels. 59)
- For example, with liftoff still scheduled for the end of this year, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is currently being tested to ensure that it will withstand the rigors of launch and the harsh environment of space during its life in orbit around Earth.
- This new satellite will assume the role as a reference mission to provide critical data for the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements.
- As one of the most severe consequences of climate change, global sea level is rising – putting millions of people at risk. It is essential to continue measuring the changing height of the sea surface to monitor this worrying trend so that decision-makers are equipped to take appropriate mitigating action.
- The constraints imposed by the COVID-19 crisis mean that there are far fewer engineers in the cleanroom testing the satellite at IABG's center near Munich in Germany.
- Pierrik Vuilleumier, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission project manager, said, "The current situation has meant that many of us are having to follow the test campaign remotely. Since this is an international mission, people are scattered across Europe and the US.
- "Remarkably, we have reached an important milestone completing the acoustic vibration tests, which simulate the noisy environment of liftoff and ascent through the atmosphere. This just shows how the team is determined to meet the launch date in November, despite the difficult circumstances."
- Copernicus Sentinel-6 is now set for the next set of tests, which includes the ‘electromagnetic compatibility' tests. With these complete, at the end of September, it will be transported to the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for liftoff on a NASA-provided Space-X Falcon 9 rocket.
- Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is being jointly developed by ESA, NASA, EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), with support from CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
• On January 28, 2020, NASA and its partners announced they have renamed a key ocean observation satellite launching this fall in honor of Earth scientist Michael Freilich, who retired last year as head of NASA's Earth Science division, a position he held since 2006. 60) 61)
During Freilich's NASA tenure, the agency increased the pace of Earth science mission launches and in 2014 alone sent five missions to space to study our home planet. The missions balanced many objectives from research to applications and technology development activities. Freilich also led NASA's response to the National Academy of Sciences' first-ever Earth Science and Applications from Space decadal survey in 2007, which expanded NASA's innovative Earth-observing programs and continues to guide the agency's global Earth observation efforts.
"My NOAA colleagues and I enthusiastically support renaming Sentinel-6A after Mike," said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. "This is a fitting honor for a man who helped transform space-based Earth observation and has brought together the best contributions from our global Earth science community to improve our collective understanding of how our planet is changing." NOAA uses data from missions such as Sentinel-6 in a variety of ways, from monitoring the rate of global sea-level rise to producing more accurate weather forecasts.
Freilich also established the sustained Venture Class program of low-cost space and airborne science missions that is now a central feature of the NASA Earth Science Division's portfolio. He pioneered the broad use of the International Space Station as a platform for Earth-observing instruments, a unique observing platform for the Earth system. Unlike many of the traditional Earth observation platforms, the space station orbits the Earth in an inclined equatorial orbit that is not Sun-synchronous. This means that the space station passes over locations between 52 degrees north and 52 degrees south latitude at different times of day and night, and under varying illumination conditions. This is particularly important for collecting imagery of unexpected natural hazard and disaster events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, flooding and tsunamis, as well as for cross-calibrating other satellites in Sun-synchronous polar orbits.
Freilich also inaugurated a NASA activity to use data products from private sector, small-satellite constellations and commercial partners to supplement traditional government data sources. Under Freilich's leadership, NASA looked at new ways to carry out its critical mission and established cutting-edge programs to use small satellites and payloads hosted on commercial satellites to advance Earth science research and to demonstrate new technologies.
All told, during Freilich's time at NASA Headquarters, he oversaw 16 successful major mission and instrument launches and eight CubeSat/small-satellite launches. The agency's Earth Science Division has 14 Earth-observing missions in development for launch by 2023, which includes eight major hosted instruments on other nations' satellites.
NASA uses the unique vantage point of space and suborbital platforms to better understand Earth as an interconnected system for societal benefit. The agency also develops new technologies and approaches to observe and study Earth with long-term data records, research, modeling, and computer analysis tools to quantify how our planet is changing. NASA shares this knowledge with the global community, including managers and policymakers domestically and internationally to understand and protect our home planet.
Some background: NASA, Partners Name Ocean Studying Satellite for Noted Earth Scientist, namely: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich
NASA - along with ESA (European Space Agency), the European Commission (EC), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - made the announcement during a special event at the agency's headquarters.
"This honor demonstrates the global reach of Mike's legacy," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "We are grateful for ESA and the European partners' generosity in recognizing Mike's lifelong dedication to understanding our planet and improving life for everyone on it. Mike's contributions to NASA - and to Earth science worldwide - have been invaluable, and we are thrilled that this satellite bearing his name will uncover new knowledge about the oceans for which he has such an abiding passion."
The Sentinel-6A/Jason CS satellite, scheduled to launch this fall from Vandenberg Air Force base in California, will now be known as Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich. The mission aims to continue high-precision ocean altimetry measurements in the 2020-2030 timeframe using two identical satellites launching five years apart - Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B.
NASA and its partners are developing the mission with support from the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France's space agency. Project management is being provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. ESA is developing the new Sentinel family of missions specifically to support the operational needs of the European Union's Copernicus program, the EU's Earth observation program managed by the European Commission. They will replace older satellites nearing the end of their operational lifespan to ensure there are no gaps in ongoing land, atmosphere and ocean monitoring, as well as introduce new monitoring capabilities.
"Together with other missions of the European Union's Earth Observation Programme Copernicus, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will contribute to improved knowledge and understanding of the role of the ocean in climate change and for mitigation and adaptation policies in coastal areas," said Mercedes Garcia Perez, head of the Global Issues and Innovation of the European Union Delegation to the United States. "It will have a large societal impact worldwide as it supports applications in the area of operational oceanography, including ship routing, support for off-shore and other marine industries, fisheries, and responses to environmental hazards. This new satellite within the Copernicus constellation will be an additional tool for implementing the European Green Deal to transition the EU to a carbon-neutral economy."
A secondary objective of the mission is to collect high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature, using the Global Navigation Satellite Sounding Radio-Occultation sounding technique, which derives atmospheric information from analyses of signals from international Global Positioning System satellites. Sentinel-6 measurements of temperature changes in the troposphere and stratosphere will be used by weather agencies worldwide to improve the accuracy of global forecasts produced by their complex, state-of-the-art computer models.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite also will continue the existing 28-year data set of sea level changes measured from space. Before his retirement, Freilich was instrumental in advancing the collaborative mission to a critical stage of development and helping to strengthen its essential international partnerships.
"This mission demonstrates what the United States and Europe can achieve as equal partners in such a large space project. Our suggestion to rename the mission to 'Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich' is an expression of how thankful we are to Mike. Without him, this mission as it is today would not have been possible," said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director of Earth Observation Programmes.
Freilich's career as an oceanographer spanned nearly four decades and integrated research on Earth's oceans, leading satellite mission development, and helping to train and inspire the next generation of scientific leaders. His training was in ocean physics, but his vision encompasses the full spectrum of Earth's dynamics.
"Earth Science shows perhaps more than any other discipline how important partnership is to the future of this planet," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for Science. "Mike exemplifies the commitment to excellence, generosity of spirit and unmatched ability to inspire trust that made so many people across the world want to advance big goals on behalf of our planet and all its people by working with NASA. The fact that ESA and the European partners have given him this unprecedented honor demonstrates that respect and admiration."
• December 5, 2019: In a cleanroom in Ottobrunn, Germany, the latest Copernicus Sentinel satellite is ready for final testing before it is packed up and shipped to the US for liftoff next year. Designed and built to chart changing sea level, it is the first of two identical Sentinel-6 satellites that will be launched consecutively to continue the time series of sea-level measurements. This new mission builds on heritage from previous ocean topography satellites, including the French–US Topex-Poseidon and Jason missions, previous ESA missions such as the ERS satellites, Envisat and CryoSat, as well as Copernicus Sentinel-3. With millions of people around the world at risk from rising seas, it is essential to continue measuring the changing height of the sea surface so that decision-makers are equipped to take appropriate mitigating action – as is being currently highlighted at the COP-25 Climate Change Conference in Spain. 62)
• November 20, 2019: For the first time, U.S and European agencies are preparing to launch a 10-year satellite mission to continue to study the clearest sign of global warming - rising sea levels. The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission (short for Jason-Continuity of Service), will be the longest-running mission dedicated to answering the question: How much will Earth's oceans rise by 2030? 63)
- By 2030, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will add to nearly 40 years of sea level records, providing us with the clearest, most sensitive measure of how humans are changing the planet and its climate.
- The mission consists of two identical satellites, Sentinel-6A and Sentinel-6B, launching five years apart. The Sentinel-6A spacecraft was on display for the media on 15 November for a last look in its clean room in Germany's IABG space test center. The satellite is being prepared for a scheduled launch in November 2020 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
- Sentinel-6/Jason-CS follows in the footsteps of four other joint U.S.-European satellite missions - TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, Ocean Surface Topography/Jason-2, and Jason-3 - that have measured sea level rise over the past three decades. The data gathered by those missions have shown that Earth's oceans are rising by an average of 3 mm/year.
- Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will continue that work, studying not just sea level change but also changes in ocean circulation, climate variability such as El Niño and La Niña, and weather patterns, including hurricanes and storms.
- "Global sea level rise is, in a way, the most complete measure of how humans are changing the climate," said Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "If you think about it, global sea level rise means that 70% of Earth's surface is getting taller - 70% of the planet is changing its shape and growing. So it's the whole planet changing. That's what we're really measuring."
- As the oceans warm, they expand, increasing the volume of water; the trapped heat also melts ice sheets and glaciers, contributing further to sea level rise. The rate at which it is rising has accelerated over the past 25 years and is expected to continue accelerating in years to come.
- Along with measuring sea level rise, the mission will provide datasets that can help with weather predictions, assessing temperature changes in the atmosphere and collecting high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature and humidity.
- As with its Jason-series predecessors, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will gather global ocean data every 10 days, providing insights into large ocean features like El Niño events. However, unlike previous Jason-series missions, its higher-resolution instruments will also be able to provide data on smaller ocean features - including complex currents - that will benefit navigation and fishing communities.
• November 15, 2019: Media representatives and mission partners gathered today in Germany to see a new satellite, which will take the lead in charting sea-level change, before it undergoes final testing and is packed up for shipment to the US for lift-off next year. 64)
- Copernicus Sentinel-6 was on full display at the IAGB space test center in Ottobrunn near Munich, giving media and partners in the mission a unique opportunity to see this remarkable new satellite up close.
- ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, said, "We are all extremely proud to see the complete satellite on show here in the cleanroom. With global sea level rising at shocking rates, Copernicus Sentinel-6 will take the lead in providing systematic measurements of sea level so that the worrying trend in sea-level rise can be closely monitored and key information provided for important policy decisions."
- Sentinel-6 is realized thanks to cooperation between ESA, NASA, the European Commission, EUMETSAT and NOAA.
- "The mission has been developed thanks to the outstanding international cooperation with our US partners. Sentinel-6 is indeed a model case of pan-European and US–European cooperation, taking advantage of a 26-year history in altimetry measurements from space on both sides of the Atlantic."
- Sentinel-6 builds on heritage from previous ocean topography satellites, including the French–US Topex-Poseidon and Jason missions, previous ESA missions such as the ERS satellites, Envisat and CryoSat, as well as Copernicus Sentinel-3.
- These missions have shown how sea level rose by about 3.2 mm on average a year between 1993 and 2018, but more alarmingly, that the rate of rise has been accelerating over the last few years. It is now rising at 4.8 mm a year.
- Caused mainly by warming ocean waters, melting glaciers and diminishing ice sheets, sea-level rise is one of the most severe consequences of climate change. With millions of people around the world at risk from rising seas, it is essential to continue measuring the changing height of the sea surface so that decision-makers are equipped to take appropriate mitigating action.
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 satellite will be launched in November 2020 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US on a Falcon-9. It will be the first time ESA cooperates, through NASA, with the private US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, which was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.
• September 3, 2019: Airbus DS has completed the ocean satellite ‘Copernicus Sentinel-6A', and is now sending it on its first journey. Its destination: Ottobrunn near Munich in Germany, where over the next six months the satellite will undergo an extensive series of tests at Industrieanlagen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (IABG) to prove its readiness for space. 65) 66)
- ‘Copernicus Sentinel-6' will carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography. The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimeters and, over a mission lasting up to seven years, use this data to map it, repeating the cycle every 10 days. It will document changes in sea-surface height, record and analyze variations in sea levels and observe ocean currents. Exact observations of changes in sea-surface height provide insights into global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and ocean heat storage. These measurements are vital for modelling the oceans and predicting rises in sea levels.
- The findings will enable governments and institutions to establish effective protection for coastal regions. The data will be invaluable not only for disaster relief organizations, but also for authorities involved in urban planning, securing buildings or commissioning dykes.
- Global sea levels are currently rising by an average of 3.3 mm/year as a result of global warming; this could potentially have dramatic consequences for countries with densely populated coastal areas.
- Two Sentinel-6 satellites for the European Copernicus Program for environment and security are currently being developed under Airbus's industrial leadership. While it is one of the European Union's family of Copernicus satellite missions, Sentinel-6 is also being realized thanks to an international cooperation between ESA, NASA, NOAA and EUMETSAT.
- Each satellite has a mass of approximately 1.5 tons. From November 2020, Sentinel-6A will be the first of the two Sentinel-6 satellites to continue collecting satellite-based measurements of the oceans' surfaces, a task that began in 1992. Sentinel-6B is then expected to follow in 2025.
• April 12, 2019: Records show that, on average, global sea level rose by 3.2 mm a year between 1993 and 2018, but hidden within this average is the fact that the rate of rise has been accelerating over the last few years. Taking measurements of the height of the sea surface is essential to monitoring this worrying trend – and the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission is on the way to being ready to do just this. 67)
- The mission will be a constellation of two identical satellites that are launched sequentially.
- Over the next decade, the Copernicus Sentinel-6A and then Sentinel-6B satellites will, importantly, take the role as reference missions, picking up the task of continuing the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that have so far been supplied by the French–US Topex-Poseidon and Jason missions.
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 satellites will each carry a radar altimeter, which works by measuring the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to Earth's surface and back again to the satellite. Combined with precise satellite location data, altimetry measurements yield the height of the sea surface.
- Over the next decade, the Copernicus Sentinel-6A and then Sentinel-6B satellites will, importantly, take the role as a reference mission, picking up the task of continuing the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that have so far been supplied by the French–US Topex-Poseidon and Jason missions.
- The Copernicus Sentinel-6 satellites will each carry a radar altimeter, which works by measuring the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to Earth's surface and back again to the satellite. Combined with precise satellite location data, altimetry measurements yield the height of the sea surface (Figure 76).
- With Copernicus Sentinel-6A scheduled for liftoff at the end of next year, the satellite is currently being equipped with its measuring instruments, which also include an advanced microwave radiometer at Airbus' facilities in Friedrichshafen in Germany.
- The radiometer accounts for the amount of water vapor in atmosphere, which affects the speed of the altimeter's radar pulses. While it is one of the European Union's family of Copernicus satellite missions, which all deliver a wealth of information for a number of environmental services, Copernicus Sentinel-6 is also being realized thanks to cooperation between ESA, NASA, NOAA and EUMETSAT.
- As part of this international cooperation, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 radiometer has been supplied by NASA.
- ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission scientist, Craig Donlon, said, "The advanced microwave radiometer has been designed to make sure that the measurements from Copernicus Sentinel-6 will be of the highest quality to monitor changes in global sea level and ensure a complete record of sea level for the coming decades."
- Pierrik Vuilleumeir, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-6 project manager, added, "We are very happy with progress so far and, in fact, both satellites are being built in parallel. We are now looking forward to the next step, which will be to complete the satellite with the altimeter and the precise orbit determination instruments. The satellite will then be put through testing, which includes simulating the vibrations and temperature during liftoff and also the environment of space for its life in orbit around Earth."
• August 30, 2018: The integration of Sentinel-6A, the first of two satellites to continue measuring sea levels from 2020, has reached a new milestone and its critical phase: the propulsion module has been "mated" with the main structure of the satellite at Airbus. 68)
- In a complex operation, the Airbus satellite specialists hoisted the approximately 5 m high satellite platform with pin-point precision over the drive module, which had already been positioned (Figure 75). The two components were then fixed in place and assembled. Before this could happen, the propulsion module, which includes the engines, control devices and a 240 liter tank with an innovative fuel management system, had to undergo technical acceptance, since this subsystem can no longer be accessed once it has been integrated. The propulsion module now needs to be ‘hooked up', which will then be followed by the system tests.
- Two Sentinel-6 satellites for the European Copernicus Program for environment and security, headed by the European Commission and ESA, are currently being developed under Airbus' industrial leadership, each weighing roughly 1.5 tons. From November 2020, Sentinel-6A will be the first to continue collecting satellite-based measurements of the oceans' surfaces, a task that began in 1992. Sentinel-6B is then expected to follow in 2025.
- Sentinel-6 is a mission to carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography. The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimeters and, over a mission lasting up to seven years, use this data to map it, repeating the cycle every 10 days. It will document changes in sea-surface height, record and analyze variations in sea levels and observe ocean currents. Exact observations of changes in sea-surface height provide insights into global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents, and ocean heat storage. The measurements made are vital for modelling the oceans and predicting rises in sea levels.
- These findings enable governments and institutions to establish effective protection for coastal regions. The data is invaluable not only for disaster relief organizations, but also for authorities involved in urban planning, securing buildings or commissioning dykes. - Global sea levels are currently rising by an average of 3 mm/ year as a result of global warming; this could potentially have dramatic consequences for countries with densely populated coastal areas.
• September 2017: The satellite CDR (Critical Design Review) took place, enabling the project to move into the production Phase-D. Most flight hardware is being manufactured and satellite integration will start in September 2017. Joint activities with the NASA, NOAA and Eumetsat partners are proceeding. Working groups have been formed to address the system engineering and mission performance aspects. The independent Mission Advisory Group advising the project partners on scientific issues specific to the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission had its first meeting in June. 69)
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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).
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