NASA satellite launched to measure Earth's ice changes

18 September, 2018, 12:07 | Author: Emilio Conner
  • Final Delta 2 rocket launch puts NASA’s ICESAT-2 satellite in orbit to monitor ice

Cloaked in pre-dawn darkness, the $1 billion, half-ton ICESat-2 launched aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 6:02am (1302 GMT).

Its last will be the ICESat-2 satellite for NASA, which will circle the globe and use a laser to measure the height of ice on the Earth. The early moments of the flight appeared same old because the vehicle accelerated in the direction of orbit.The Delta 2 debuted in February 1989 when it launched the principle operational International Positioning Scheme satellite from Cape Canaveral.

The Delta II payload fairing is installed around NASA's ICESat-2.

Delta 2 rockets have launched scores of satellite telephone relay stations, seven Mars missions - including the Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity rovers - numerous NASA astronomy missions, Earth observation satellites and commercial payloads.

Because the satellite's instrument can shoot six laser pulses - not just one - at high speeds, ICESat-2 will be able to observe changes in sea ice coverage and thickness in unprecedented detail. The launch window will remain open for 2.5 hours, with a backup window available on Sunday morning.

"With this mission we continue humankind's exploration of the remote polar regions of our planet and advance our understanding of how ongoing changes of Earth's ice cover at the poles and elsewhere will affect lives around the world, now and in the future", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

091518 onpad Final Delta 2 Rocket Launches From Vandenberg Carrying $1B Ice Probe

It measures height by precisely timing how long it takes individual photons of light from a Laser to leave the satellite, bounce off Earth and return to the satellite.

Launch was delayed 16 minutes by a minor technical glitch, but the final moments of the countdown went smoothly and the slender rocket quickly vaulted away from its firing stand at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., arcing away to the south over the Pacific Ocean.

According to the Verge, it will pass over the same position on the planet every 91 days, which will allow program scientists to observe how the polar ice sheets are changing over time.

NASA said the mission will add a "third dimension" to its study of Earth.

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems built the satellite, which weighed 1,514 kilograms at launch. Four CubeSats accompanied the ICESat-2 into space. Measurements will be taken every 0.7m along the satellite's path. ICESat-2 will orbit from pole to pole, taking measurements all along the way but offering the densest height maps near the poles. With that data, scientists can forecast its likely impact on the world.

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