NASA Launches Ice-Monitoring Laser to Space on Delta II's Final Flight
NASA launched its Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission at 9:02 a.m. EDT (5:46 a.m. PDT). The laser-toting ice-measuring satellite is now on its way to space where it will soon track the changing heights of Earth's ice structures.
With the #ICESat2 mission launched, it is heading to orbit. Once there, it'll time how long it takes for laser beams to travel from the satellite to Earth & back. Scientists can calculate the height of glaciers, sea ice, forests, lakes + more w/ this data https://t.co/vPDRGmrwyZ pic.twitter.com/2wdSqHcq7P— NASA (@NASA) September 15, 2018
The event also marks the final launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The nearly 30 years old rocket was manufactured by the United Launch Alliance and took its first trip back in 1989.
The liftoff of @NASA_ICE's #ICESat2 is now set for 9:02am ET. The shift gives the launch team additional time to resolve a temperature issue on the second stage of the rocket. Watch: https://t.co/MIVnfneKo2 pic.twitter.com/R4iNlJCV7j— NASA (@NASA) September 15, 2018
The Delta II will now see its final journey start the ICESat-2 mission. This key environmental project will involve using the spacecraft's only instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), to tracks Earth’s icy surfaces such as glaciers, sea ice, lakes and more.
Forecasters predict a 100% chance of favorable weather for tomorrow’s launch of our #ICESat2 satellite that will measure the changing height of Earth's ice. Starting at 9pm ET, watch the tower rollback in preparation for this @NASA_Ice mission. Info: https://t.co/72CDs3AHrH pic.twitter.com/mX7aXKsBcc— NASA (@NASA) September 15, 2018
Earth’s cryosphere will now be explored as never before through ICESat-2's combination of lasers with a very precise detection instrument. "By timing how long it takes laser beams to travel from the satellite to Earth and back, scientists can calculate the height of glaciers, sea ice, forests, lakes and more – including the changing ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica," explained NASA's blog.
Old tool new approach
Unlike its predecessor, the original ICESat, ICESat-2 is essentially employing what NASA describes as "a micro-pulse, multi-beam approach." Using a sensor equipped with a high pulse-repetition rate of about 10 kHz, the satellite will provide measurements every 70 cm along its tracking journey.
This will result in improved elevation estimates of sloped areas and rough land surfaces. Most of all, the project will provide details on height differences between polar oceans and sea ice contributing to analyzing the current impact of global warming escalation.