NASA’s ICESat-2 Ready to Measure the Changes in Earth’s Ice

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NASA has just launched a satellite that will measure the changes in ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation on Earth. The satellite is called ICESat-2 and it is meant to deliver precise measurements.

ICESat-2 was carried to Earth’s orbit by a Delta 2 rocket and was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m. on Saturday.

According to Michael Freilich, the NASA Earth Science Division director, this mission will help scientists analyze how Greenland’s and Antarctica’s ice sheets contribute to the rise of sea level.

NASA found that the previous year has seen a global sea level rise of more than 1 millimeter because of the ice sheets melting.

The ICESat-2 continues the work of the original Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite which functioned during 2003-2009. Since 2009, NASA’s Operation IceBridge continued to take airborne measurements.

Shooting Lasers From the Orbit to Earth

The newly launched satellite was built by Northrop Grumman. It has one single instrument: a laser altimeter that can measure height by finding out how long it takes photons to travel from the satellite to Earth and back. NASA stated that this technique would end with 250 more measurements than the previous ICESat.

The laser will fire 10,000 times per second into six beams that will shoot hundreds of trillions of photons.

ICESat-2 will also measure the tops of trees, snow, river heights, and help researchers finding the carbon stored in forests, help with flood and drought planning, wildlife behavior and more.

As for the Delta 2 rocket used for the launch, this was its last mission, stated United Launch Alliance. The first Delta 2 started its work in February 1989 and had been used until recently to launch Global Positioning System orbiters, satellites for Earth observations or commercial satellites, and it was also the one that launched the two Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

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