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Illustration of the Sentinel-6/Michael Freilich satellite in orbit.


ESA

The next SpaceX Falcon 9 launch is slated to carry a new NASA and European Space Agency satellite to orbit as soon as Saturday. The payload will be the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, the latest in a series of satellites that have provided critical data about sea level rise and climate change for almost three decades. It’s named for the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, who’s considered a pioneer in conducting oceanography work from orbit.

The new ocean-spying bird will be able to measure sea levels within a few centimeters for 90% of oceans around the globe. A twin satellite named Sentinel-6B will join the effort when it launches in 2025. Instruments on the new satellites will also provide data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasts, according to NASA.

The mission starts with the fairly rare launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A statement from Vandenberg warns that multiple sonic booms may be heard in parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties when the Falcon 9 first stage returns for a landing after lifting the satellite toward orbit. That should occur roughly eight minutes after liftoff.

Liftoff is currently set for Saturday at 9:17 a.m. PT, and you can watch via the live feed embedded below.

It could prove to be a very busy day for SpaceX, which also plans to launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites from Florida just 10 hours later.