SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch NASA’s ‘golden house’ satellite

A ‘golden house’ will soon orbit Earth! The unique vehicle is NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft, named after Earth scientist Michael Freilich who retired last year after over a decade of working as director of the agency’s Earth science mission. Even though Sentinel-6’s aesthetic makes it appealing to ride inside of it –no astronauts will launch aboard. Sentinel-6 is an ocean observatory equipped to collect sea level data from orbit that will offer scientists insight about how climate change is affecting weather phenomena and how fast it is reshaping Earth’s coastlines. “Rising seas are one of the most distinctive and potentially devastating effects of Earth’s warming climate. Measuring and understanding changes in sea level allows us to assess the vulnerability of coastal cities and towns to flooding as we look toward the future,” NASA wrote in a press release. “Precise sea level measurements can also be used to track ocean currents, which transport heat from one part of the planet to another, which in turn influence Earth’s energy budget and weather patterns.”

Sentinel-6 is an international project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA is responsible for the satellite’s development, it was manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space. Both NASA and ESA designed and provided the satellites’ instruments. NASA is responsible for launch operations; It selected SpaceX Falcon 9 to deploy Sentinel-6 into low Earth orbit at an altitude of around 1,336 kilometers (830 miles). SpaceX will launch the vehicle over the weekend. The house-shaped ocean observatory will launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday, November 21 at 12:17 p.m. EST. from Space Launch Complex-4 (SLC-4) at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The agency will broadcast the mission Live in the video linked below.

Sentinel-6 inside Falcon 9’s fairing. Source: NASA 

Today, November 17, SpaceX test-fired the Falcon 9 rocket that will send the ‘golden house’ to orbit. “Static fire test complete – targeting Saturday, November 21 for Falcon 9 launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission and landing at SLC-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California,” SpaceX announced. A static-fire test is a routine pre-flight preparation to ensure the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines work at optimal level ahead of flight.

NASA says the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will collect the most accurate global data on sea level and will offer scientists insight about how Earth’s oceans change over time. The satellite will also collect precise data of atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help meteorologists improve weather forecasts on the ground; Including aid in the development of more accurate models that track the formation and evolution of hurricanes. The Sentinel-6 spacecraft will orbit around Earth approximately 13 times per day. It is programmed to gather data of Earth for 5 years, but the ‘golden house’ could remain orbiting our planet for as long as 25 years. After the five-year period, NASA and ESA plan to launch a second satellite called Sentinel-6B, which will operate similarly.