Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich


The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) is a radar altimeter satellite developed in partnership between several European and American organizations. It is part of the Jason satellite series and is named after Michael Freilich. S6MF includes synthetic-aperture radar altimetry techniques to improve ocean topography measurements, in addition to rivers and lakes.[2]

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (2).jpg
Illustration of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft in orbit above Earth with its deployable solar panels extended
Jason-CS A
Mission typeOceanography mission
COSPAR ID2020-086A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.46984
Mission duration5.5 years (planned)
2 years and 13 days (in progress)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerAirbus Defence and Space
Launch mass1,192 kg (2,628 lb)
Dimensions5.13 x 4.17 x 2.34 metres
Power891 watts
Start of mission
Launch date21 November 2020,
17:17:08 UTC
RocketFalcon 9 Block 5
Launch siteVandenberg, SLC-4E
Entered service21 June 2021 [1]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Altitude1,336 km (830 mi)
Repeat interval10 days
  • Radar altimeter
  • Advanced Microwave Radiometer (AMR-C)
  • GNSS Precise Orbit Determination (POD) Receiver
  • DORIS Receiver
  • Laser Reflector Array (LRA)
  • Radio-occultation instrument
Copernicus sentinel-6 logo.jpg
Logo of the Sentinel-6 programme
Sentinel-7 →
← Jason-3
Sentinel-6B (2025) →


Inside SpaceX's Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the U.S.-European Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-monitoring satellite is being encapsulated in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing on 3 November 2020. (NASA)

The Sentinel-6 program includes two identical satellites, to be launched five years apart, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, which launched on 21 November 2020,[3] and Sentinel-6B, which will launch in 2025.[4] These satellites will measure sea level change from space, which have been measured without interruption since 1992.[5][6]

Formerly called Sentinel-6A and Jason-CS A (Jason Continuity of Service-A), it was renamed in honor of the former director of NASA Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, 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.[7]


Since the launch of TOPEX/Poseidon on 10 August 1992, high-precision satellite altimeters have been essential to monitor how the ocean stores and redistributes heat, water, and carbon in the climate system. The two satellites, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B, will extend this legacy through to at least 2030, which will provide a nearly forty-year record of sea level rise as well as changes in ocean currents.[4][8]


The Sentinel-6 was developed by European Space Agency (ESA) in the context of the European Copernicus Programme led by the European Commission, 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 technical support from France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES, Centre national d'études spatiales).[9]

The Sentinel-6 mission is part of the Copernicus programme initiative, the main objective of the Sentinel-6 mission is to measure sea surface topography with high accuracy and reliability to support ocean forecasting systems, environmental monitoring and climate monitoring.[10]

The mission definition is driven by the need for continuity in provision of TOPEX/Poseidon mission and Jason satellite series (Jason-1, OSTM/Jason-2, and Jason-3) with improvements in instrument performance and coverage.[11] ESA, NASA, and EUMETSAT will provide mission management and system engineering support. EUMETSAT and NASA will be responsible for long-term archives of altimetry data products. All partners will be involved with the selection of science investigators.[11]

Responsibilities of partnersEdit



  • has responsibility for the development of the first satellite and the ground prototype processors, and for procurement of the second satellite on behalf of EUMETSAT and the European Commission
  • has responsibility for conducting the Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP) of both satellites
  • supports flight operations performed by EUMETSAT


  • has responsibility for ground segment development and coordination at system level, including for operations preparation
  • has responsibility for conducting operations of the two satellites after LEOP performed by ESA
  • has responsibility for conducting operations of the European part of the ground segment, including processing of altimeter data and delivery of product services to European users


  • has responsibility for the development and delivery of the U.S. payload instruments, the microwave radiometer and the GNSS radio occultation receiver
  • provides launch services for both satellites
  • provides ground segment development support and will contribute to operations and data processing on the U.S. side, including processing of GNSS radio occultation data
  • with NOAA, shares responsibility for the distribution of products to research and operational users in the U.S.


  • provides a U.S. ground station for tracking and command of the satellite and data downlinks
  • with NASA, shares responsibility for the distribution of products to research and operational users in the U.S.


  • has responsibility for processing higher-level products (L2P, L3)
  • has responsibility for providing precise orbit determination and support for Doris and altimeter operations [12]



  1. ^ "New sea-level monitoring satellite goes live". ESA. 21 June 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  2. ^ Donlon, Craig J.; Cullen, Robert; Giulicchi, Luisella; Vuilleumier, Pierrik; Francis, C. Richard; Kuschnerus, Mieke; Simpson, William; Bouridah, Abderrazak; Caleno, Mauro; Bertoni, Roberta; Rancaño, Jesus (1 June 2021). "The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission: Enhanced continuity of satellite sea level measurements from space". Remote Sensing of Environment. 258: 112395. Bibcode:2021RSEnv.258k2395D. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2021.112395. ISSN 0034-4257. S2CID 233566650.
  3. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (20 November 2020). "SpaceX will launch the Sentinel-6 ocean-mapping satellite Saturday". Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Jason-CS (Sentinel 6) Summary". NASA. August 2020. Archived from the original on 8 April 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2020.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "A Decade of Global Sea Level Measurements: Jason-2 Marks Tenth Year in Orbit". NOAA. 20 June 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2021.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ B., Mark (8 September 2020). "NASA Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich to Launch in November 2020". Science Times.
  7. ^ "NASA TV to Air Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch, Prelaunch Activities". NASA. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 22 November 2020.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ "Upcoming Satellite Mission will Improve Hurricane Forecasts and Climate Science, NOAA Expert Says". NOAA. 14 August 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2021.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ Greicius, Tony (19 November 2020). "Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite Prepared for Launch". NASA. Retrieved 21 November 2020.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ "Copernicus Sentinel-6: Testing Complete for New International Ocean Satellite". SciTechDaily. 15 June 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Sentinel-6 Overview". ESA. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Sentinel-6". EUMETSAT. Retrieved 26 May 2021.