NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), a mission to measure the changing height of Earth’s ice was launched recently.
The spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.
ICESat-2 carried a single instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which will send 10,000 laser pulses a second to Earth’s surface and measure the height of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation by calculating the time it takes the pulses to return to the spacecraft. The precise and complete coverage afforded by ICESat-2 will enable researchers to track changes in land and sea ice with unparalleled detail, which will inform our understanding of what drives these changes.
The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, will measure the height of a changing Earth – one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second. Slated for launch in 2018, ICESat-2 will carry a laser altimeter that detects individual photons, allowing scientists to measure the elevation of ice sheets, sea ice, forests and more in unprecedented detail.
Our planet’s frozen and icy areas, called the cryosphere, are a key focus of NASA’s Earth science research. ICESat-2 will help scientists investigate why, and how much, our cryosphere is changing in a warming climate. The satellite will also measure heights across Earth’s temperate and tropical regions, and take stock of the vegetation in forests worldwide.
ICESat-2 advances our laser technology from the first ICESat, which was launched in 2003 and operated until 2009.