The spacecraft is the latest initiative by the space agency to gather data about changing sea levels.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, to give it its full name, is going to measure sea-surface height, wave-height and windspeed using radar altimetry. This provides information about the ocean surface height in relation to mean sea level. Using this data will help scientists worldwide track climate patterns, improve hurricane forecasts and understand ocean currents.
"Sea level rise is accelerating", says Anny Cazenave, Senior Scientist at the French research centre Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales. "Eleven of the fifteen largest megacities are located on the coast", she added. The number of people living in coastal areas is expected to double by 2060, as a result of population growth and further urbanisation in the coastal zone.
The satellite, which was named after Michael Freilich, former head of NASA’s Earth Science Division, is due to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in November.