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What is the Sentinel-6 satellite and why is it important?

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

What is the Sentinel-6 satellite, and why is it important?


The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is designed to monitor oceans.

  • It was recently launched from California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
  • This is a part of the next mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level.

What is the mission?

  • The mission is called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission.
  • It is designed to measure the height of the ocean, which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • It has been developed jointly by the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EU, with contributions from France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

What will the satellite do?

  • Provide measurements of global sea-level rise.
  • Send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help scientists measure the sea surface height.
  • Measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.

Significance of the Mission:

This data will allow improvements in both short-term forecasting for weather predictions in the two-to-four-week range (hurricane intensity predictions), and long-term forecasting, for instance for seasonal conditions like El Niño and La Niña.

Why is it important to measure the height of the ocean?

  1. With this, it is possible to observe the height of the oceans on a global scale and monitor critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage only from space.
  2. It helps scientists foresee the effects of the changing oceans on the climate.
  3. In order to measure and track changes in the oceanic heat budget, scientists need to know the ocean currents and heat storage of the oceans, which can be determined from the height of the sea surface.

Other satellites that have been launched since 1992 to track changes in the oceans on a global scale include:

  • The TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and OSTN/Jason-2, among others.


Prelims Link:

  1. Objectives and significance of the mission.
  2. About: TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and OSTN/Jason-2.
  3. What are ocean currents? How are they generated?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission.

Sources: Indian Express.