The first spacecraft in the next-generation of a joint US-European satellite mission monitoring global sea level rise will be named after retired NASA scientist Mike Freilich, in honour of his decades-long championing of Earth science.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020


The European partners of the Copernicus Sentinel-6 high-precision altimetry mission – the European Commission, the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT – proposed the rare honour, which became official at a renaming ceremony in Washington today.

The spacecraft, the Sentinel-6 “Michael Freilich”, to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in November, was formerly known Jason-Continuity of Service A (Jason-CS A).

“We all wished to communicate the value and resilience of our transatlantic cooperation and pay tribute to the unique personality of Mike Freilich,” EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier, who has known Freilich since they were both working as ocean scientists in 1985, said.

“Mike’s commitment to Earth system science with no borders and to cooperation is unrivalled.
We in Europe are delighted to honour a true American who is also a citizen of the world.”


Mike Freilich

The collaborative Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission will extend the unique climate record initiated in 1992 by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission (1992-2006) and continued by Jason (2001-2013), Jason-2 (2008-2019) and Jason-3, launched in 2016.

NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partners in the mission with the European agencies.

NOAA Satellite and Information Service Assistant Administrator Stephen Volz said  his NOAA colleagues enthusiastically supported renaming Sentinel 6A/Jason-CS A after Freilich.

"This is a fitting honour for a man who helped transform space-based Earth observation, and has brought together the best contributions from our global Earth science community to improve our collective understanding of how our planet is changing," Volz said.

Freilich retired as director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in February 2019.

He led NASA’s response to the National Academy of Sciences’ first Earth Science and Applications from Space decadal survey, expanding the agency’s innovative Earth observation programmes, and oversaw 16 successful major mission and instrument launches and eight cube sat/small-satellite launches.


The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation based in Darmstadt, Germany, currently with 30 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

EUMETSAT operates the geostationary satellites Meteosat -9, -10 and -11 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-8 over the Indian Ocean.

EUMETSAT operates three Metop polar-orbiting satellites as part of the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS) shared with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

EUMETSAT is also a partner in the cooperative sea level monitoring Jason missions (Jason-3 and Jason-CS/Sentinel-6) involving Europe and the United States.

The data and products from EUMETSAT’s satellites are vital to weather forecasting and make a significant contribution to the monitoring of environment and climate change.

The European Union has entrusted EUMETSAT with exploiting the four Sentinel missions of the Copernicus space component dedicated to the monitoring of atmosphere, ocean and climate on its behalf. EUMETSAT carries out these tasks in cooperation with ESA and already exploits the Sentinel-3 marine mission.

EUMETSAT has established cooperation with operators of Earth Observation satellites from Europe and China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.


Media Relations EUMETSAT:
Tel: +49 6151 807 7320

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