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US-European Satellite Delivers First Sea Level Measurements; Thomas Zurbuchen Quoted

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Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, a joint U.S.-European satellite built to measure global sea surface height, has sent back its first measurements of sea level, NASA reported on Thursday. The data has provided information on sea surface height, wave height and wind speed off the southern tip of Africa.

"We're excited for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich to begin its critical work studying sea level and helping us understand the many aspects of our planet's global ocean," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Nov. 21. The satellite will measure global ocean height from space. 

"Data from Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will help us evaluate how the Earth is changing," said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA's Earth Science Division. 

The initial orbit for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was 11.4 miles lower than its ultimate operational orbit of 830 miles above Earth. Engineers plan to move the satellite into its operational orbit by mid-December, where it will trail the Jason-3 satellite by 30 seconds. 

During this tandem flight, scientists and engineers will spend the next six to 12 months cross calibrating the data collected between the satellites to ensure the continuity of measurements. Following, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will become the primary sea level satellite. 

In addition to measuring sea level, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will monitor atmospheric temperature and humidity, which will help improve weather and hurricane forecasts.