The satellite, known as Jason-3, aims to offer a more precise look at how global warming and sea level rise affect wind speeds and currents as close as one kilometer (0.6 miles) from shore, whereas past satellites were limited to about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the coast.
“That is a significant advantage over our predecessors,” said Jim Silva, Jason-3 program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The technology will also monitor global sea surface heights, tropical cyclones and help support seasonal and coastal forecasts.
During a five-year mission, its data will also be used to aid fisheries management and research into human impacts on the world’s oceans.
The satellite is the fruit of a four-way partnership between NOAA, NASA, the French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
The launch is scheduled for Sunday, January 17 at 10:42 am (1842 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The weather outlook was clear for launch time, but in case of a delay, another launch window opens Monday at 1831 GMT.