European partners of the Copernicus Sentinel-6 missions have officially renamed the spacecraft the Michael Freilich in honor of the retired NASA scientist.
The European Commission, the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT proposed the rare honor, which became official at a renaming ceremony in Washington, USA, on Tuesday, January 28.
The spacecraft will be launched from Vanderberg Air Force Base, California in November this year, and was formerly known as Jason-Continuity of Service A (Jason CS-A).
Alain Ratier, director general of EUMETSAT said, “We all wished to communicate the value and resilience of our transatlantic cooperation and pay tribute to the unique personality of Mike Freilich.”
He added, “Mike’s commitment to Earth system science with no borders and to cooperation is unrivaled. We in Europe are delighted to honor a true American who is also a citizen of the world.”
The Copernicus Sentinel-6 extends the unique climate record initiated in 1992 by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission from 1992-2006. This was followed by Jason from 2001-2013, Jason-2 from 2008-2019 and Jason-3 launched in 2016.
Stephen Volz, NOAA satellite and information service assistant administrator added, “This is a fitting honor 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.”
Freilich retired as director of the Earth science division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in February 2019.