In early 2016, members of the media setup remote cameras for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard NASA recently awarded SpaceX a contract to deliver the newest ocean observatory for an international mission known as Sentinel-6B. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls photo

NASA has picked Space Exploration Technologies to deliver the next in a series of ocean-observing satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in three years.

The space agency recently announced the selection of a launch services provider for the Sentinel-6B mission. 

Sentinel-6B will continue the long-term global sea level data record started in 1992 and involving a U.S-European effort involving a Topex/Poseidon satellite followed by Jason 1, 2, 3, and Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft.

The firm fixed-price contract has a value of approximately $94 million, which includes launch services and other mission-related costs. 

The Sentinel-6B mission currently is targeted to launch November 2025, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E on South Base.

Sentinel-6B will use a radar altimeter to bounce signals off the ocean surface and deliver ocean topography measurements, NASA said. 

The spacecraft also will collect high-resolution temperature data, allowing the satellite to assess temperature changes in Earth’s atmosphere and lead to improved weather prediction models.

To prepare for a 2016 launch SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rolls out to Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base to deliver the Jason-3 satellite to low-Earth orbit for an international mission. NASA recently awarded SpaceX a contract to carry a new ocean observatory into space in 2025 from Vandenberg. Credit: SpaceX photo

In November 2020, a SpaceX Falcon rocket also carried the most recent ocean observer, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, described as the size of a small truck, into orbit.

The Jason 1, 2, 3 satellites also launched from Vandenberg with the first two missions flying aboard the United Launch Alliance Delta II rockets and the third traveling aboard a Falcon booster.

An Ariane rocket that launched from Kourou, French Guiana, delivered Topex/Poseidon, the first in the series.

The new satellite will continue a 30-year effort to collect data on sea level along with enhancing weather forecasts and providing information on ocean currents for ship navigation near coastlines.

Sentinel-6B is a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, European Space Agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at