NASA is targeting 12:17 p.m. EST (9:17 a.m. PST) Saturday, Nov. 21, for the launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, the first of two identical satellites to head into Earth orbit five years apart to continue sea level observations for at least the next decade.
Live launch coverage will begin at 11:45 a.m. EST (8:45 a.m. PST), on NASA Television and the agency's website, with prelaunch and science briefings the day before on Nov. 20.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will head into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California. The launch is managed by NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California manages the agency's contribution to the mission.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is named in honor of the former director of NASA's Earth Science Division, who was instrumental in advancing space-based ocean measurements. It follows the most recent U.S.-European sea level observation satellite, Jason-3, which launched in 2016, and is currently providing high-precision and timely observations of the topography of the global ocean.
The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, consisting of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B satellites, is being jointly developed by ESA (European Space Agency), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with funding support from the European Commission and support from France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
The Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission is part of Copernicus, the European Union's Earth observation program, managed by the European Commission. Continuing the legacy of the Jason series missions, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will extend the records of sea level into their fourth decade, collecting accurate measurements of sea surface height for more than 90% of the world's oceans, and providing crucial information for operational oceanography, marine meteorology, and climate studies. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich's twin, Sentinel-6B, is scheduled to launch in 2025.
NASA's contributions to the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission are three science instruments for each of the two satellites: the Advanced Microwave Radiometer, the Global Navigation Satellite System – Radio Occultation, and the Laser Retroreflector Array. NASA is also contributing launch services, ground systems supporting operation of the NASA science instruments, the science data processors for two of these instruments, and support for the U.S. members of the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all media participation in news conferences will be remote. A phone bridge will be provided for each briefing. The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full mission coverage is as follows (all times eastern):
Friday, Nov. 20
3:30 p.m. – Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Science Briefing with the following participants:
Karen St. Germain, director, NASA Earth Science Division
Craig Donlon, project scientist, ESA
Remko Scharroo, project scientist, EUMETSAT
Josh Willis, project scientist, JPL
Deirdre Byrne, oceanographer, NOAA
Luanne Thompson, oceanographer, University of Washington
Media who would like to ask questions during the science briefing must provide their name and affiliation by 2:30 p.m. EST (11:30 a.m. PST) on Nov. 20, to Rexana Vizza at email@example.com or by calling 818-393-1931. Valid media credentials are required. Questions may also be asked via social media with the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas.
5:00 p.m. – Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Prelaunch News Conference with the following participants:
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Johann-Dietrich Wörner, director-general, ESA (prerecorded remarks)
Pierrik Vuilleumier, project manager, ESA
Tim Dunn, NASA launch director, Launch Services Program, Kennedy
Parag Vaze, project manager, JPL
Julianna Scheiman, program manager for NASA Launch Services, SpaceX
Col. Anthony Mastalir, Commander, 30th Space Wing and Western Launch and Test Range, VAFB
Capt. John Ott, weather officer, 30th Space Wing, VAFB
Media who would like to ask questions during the prelaunch briefing must provide their name and affiliation by 4:00 p.m. EST (1:00 p.m. PST) Friday, Nov. 20, to Rexana Vizza at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 818-393-1931. Valid media credentials are required. Questions may also be asked via social media with the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas.
7:30 p.m. – NASA TV live prelaunch coverage begins with NASA Edge show
This will air on NASA TV, as well as on the NASA Edge Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Saturday, Nov. 21
11:45 a.m. – NASA TV live launch coverage begins
Audio only of the news conferences and launch coverage will be carried on the NASA "V" circuits, which may be accessed by dialing 321-867-1220, -1240, -1260 or -7135. On launch day, "mission audio," the launch conductor's countdown activities without NASA TV launch commentary, will be carried on 321-867-7135.
Other Media Activities
Members of the media looking for interviews on the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch should submit a media request at http://bit.ly/s6mf-media-request. JPL also is supporting a newsroom in Lompoc, California, where members of the media in the launch area may request in-person interviews (compliant with coronavirus safety restrictions) the day before launch and on launch day. Please note in the media request form if an in-person interview is desired. The Lompoc newsroom also will have space for reporters to file stories after launch (compliant with coronavirus safety restrictions). For more information on the newsroom or interviews, please call 818-354-5011.