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.
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.