Skip to main content

NASA, SpaceX delay launch of Sentinel-6 ocean-mapping satellite to Nov. 21

Airbus Defence and Space technicians position the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft for fueling inside SpaceX’s Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on Oct. 22, 2020.
Airbus Defence and Space technicians position the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft for fueling inside SpaceX’s Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on Oct. 22, 2020.
(Image: © USAF 30th Space Wing/Mike Peterson)

An ocean-monitoring satellite will have to wait at least 11 extra days to get into space.

The U.S.-European Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite mission is now expected to launch on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12:17 p.m. EST (1717 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That's a delay from the prime Nov. 10 launch date.

The SpaceX launch was delayed following problems with the Falcon 9 rocket line that stopped a GPS satellite launch for the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 2. So far, however, there is no delay for the first operational commercial crew mission, Crew-1, which will also use a Falcon 9 rocket to bring astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA added that the target launch date of Saturday, Nov. 14 for Crew-1 remains unchanged at this time.

Sentinel-6: This new satellite will help us understand climate change impacts 

In a virtual press conference Oct. 16, NASA launch services program director Tim Dunn said SpaceX was working on resolving a rocket gas generator issue blamed for the GPS satellite launch abort. "As of today [Oct. 16] we have a path forward that allows us to do any necessary rework that would be required and maintain that Nov. 10 launch date," Dunn said during the press conference.

But in a more recent NASA release, the agency said SpaceX will use the delay to finish Merlin engine testing and inspections on the Falcon 9, in light of the abort.

"After completing engine testing and inspections, teams from NASA and SpaceX have determined that two engines on the Sentinel-6 rocket's first stage would need to be replaced to ensure optimal performance during launch," NASA said in the release on Tuesday (Nov. 3). "Work is now progressing to implement the engine change, and all engine hardware replacements will finish next week."

Sentinel-6 will join a fast-growing network of Earth observation satellites monitoring our planet's global warming. Some of the chief contributions of the new mission will be better understanding the sources of sea rise and the movements of deep ocean currents.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.