US, Europe and SpaceX launch a satellite to track rising global sea levels

It could play an important role in tracking climate change.

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NASA and ESA launch Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean satellite on SpaceX rocket
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Scientists should soon have an easier time studying rising sea levels as climate change takes hold. NASA and the ESA have partnered with SpaceX to launch the Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich ocean tracking satellite. The spacecraft will gauge sea levels worldwide and not only continue an unbroken 28-year record of ocean monitoring, but do so at extreme detail — down to the centimeter (0.4in) for over 90 percent of Earth oceans.

The satellite should also improve weather forecasts and help ships navigate by tracking worldwide ocean currents. It’s named after the late former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, a champion of Earth science and ocean studies.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will have a companion in the future. A twin satellite, Sentinel-6B, will launch in 2025. The combo should help maintain the climate record for “at least” another decade between the two vessels, NASA said. It’ll take about a year for the initial satellite to take over from its predecessor, Jason-3.

The timing might be ideal. The incoming US administration is expected to fully recognize climate science, and an advanced satellite could help the administration make better-informed policy decisions.

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