NASA delays SpaceX launch of the Sentinel-6 satellite

NASA delays SpaceX launch of the Sentinel-6 satellite

NASA contracted SpaceX's launch services to deploy the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The Sentinel-6 satellite is an Earth-observing satellite that is oddly shaped like a 'house'. It is designed to collect sea-level data from orbit that will offer scientists insight about how climate change is affecting weather phenomena and how fast it is reshaping Earth's coastlines. "After launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California and once in orbit, the satellite will collect sea level measurements down to a few centimeters across 90% of the world's ocean," the agency states. Sentinel-6 is an international project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The satellite was scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex-4 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base on November 10. But the mission was delayed because a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket experienced some issues during a mission for the United States Space Force. The aerospace company was tasked to deploy a Global Positioning System satellite, known as GPS-III Space Vehicle 04. On October 2nd, SpaceX attempted to launch the GPS-III satellite to orbit but at around two seconds before liftoff, the launch was aborted due to a rocket engine issue. This caused the agency to delay upcoming missions in order to investigate what caused the issue, before launching the Crew-1 astronauts and the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite.

During a press conference on October 28th, SpaceX's Vice President of build and flight reliability Hans Koenigsmann shared that SpaceX engineers found out the Falcon 9 engine issue was due to a residue of a "masking lacquer" designed to protect sensitive parts during anti-corrosion anodizing treatment. Koenigsmann told reporters the SpaceX vendor that performed the lacquer coating treatment failed to remove excess lacquer afterward, causing a blockage of tiny vent holes for Falcon 9's Merlin engine valves. SpaceX decided to fix the issue by replacing the engines on the Falcon 9 rockets that have masking lacquer residue.

Tonight, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Kathy Lueders announced the agency delayed the Sentinel-6 satellite launch. --"Update: NASA and SpaceX currently are reviewing the November 10 date for the launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich pending ongoing analysis of data from engines. We are looking at dates after the launch of Crew-1 on November 14, which is still on track," she announced via Twitter. "We will have more on Sentinel-6 after the teams complete data review on the West Coast. More to come." Crew-1 will be SpaceX's second crewed mission to the International Space Station that will launch four astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. 



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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