Two satellites will track ocean level rise with high precision. They will alert the public to the danger of high tides or storms.
The Earth observation satellite, developed by the European and American space agencies, will measure the rise in ocean levels, tracking changes that threaten to disrupt the lives of tens of millions of people. The payload will be lifted into 1,300 km orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Satellite Sentinel-6a will be the first of two identical devices – the second will be launched in five years. The researchers hope to provide measurements of “unprecedented accuracy” by 2030. Each device is equipped with a radar altimeter that measures the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to and from the Earth’s surface.
The satellites will orbit the planet in the same orbit as previous missions that have provided sea surface elevation data over the past three decades. They mapped 95% of the iceless ocean every ten days.
The accelerated rise in sea level is likely to be a consequence of climate change, which will affect the largest number of people over the next three decades. The researchers believe that in this way, they will be able to monitor changes and notify the authorities of countries around the world.
Nearly 800 million people live within five meters of ocean level, and even a few centimeters rise could cause much more damage from high tides and storms.