NASA satellite launched to measure ice changes

NASA satellite launched to measure ice changes

The spacecraft is scheduled to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday, Sept. 15, during a launch window that will open at 5:46 a.m. local time (8:46 a.m. EDT, 1246 GMT) and last for 2 hours and 34 minutes.

NASA kicked off its ICESat-2 mission to monitor our planet's ice sheets from space using a laser-scanning satellite this morning, with a launch that marked the end of a almost 30-year run for United Launch Alliance's Delta 2 rocket.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is retiring the Delta II as it focuses more on its Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. But now, Global Positioning System satellites are larger and require larger launch vehicles than the Delta II.

The mission will inform sea level rise forecasts and is "exceptionally important for science", according to Richard Slonaker, ICESat-2 program executive at NASA. Much of that money went toward developing a single, high-tech instrument dubbed the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS. Data from ICESat-2 will be available to the public through the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Nasa has successfully launched a laser satellite to map the loss of ice sheets and glaciers around the world as climate change continues to affect our planet.

"Today's #ICESat2 launch comes with a bonus - a pair of tiny satellites that will study how energetic electrons make their way into our atmosphere from space", NASA tweeted.


NASA's Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis and launch management.

"ICESat-2 will let us get at the thickness by measuring the sea ice freeboard - that's the height of the sea ice above the ocean", Tom Neumann, ICESat-2's deputy project scientist, told UPI. The sea ice's height will help scientists measure its thickness.

ICESat-2 will measure the height of our changing Earth, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses per second.

The laser on the satellite fires 10,000 times a second while travelling at a speed of 7km (4.3 miles) a second, from a height of 300 miles (482km).

Every three months, the spacecraft will travel over a total of 1,387 orbital paths, then begin to retrace its steps, ensuring it revisits the same swath of ice in 91-day increments. Two of them - twin Electron Losses and Fields Investigation CubeSats, or ELFIN, were designed by a team of UCLA students, some of whom are now alumni or graduate students.

The ICESat-2 mission cost a little over $1 billion and the spacecraft is about the size of a Smart vehicle.

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