NASA counts down to launch of laser study of ice sheets
NASA counts down to launch of laser study of ice sheets
NASA launches laser satellite ICESat-2 to measure ice loss
18 September, 2018, 12:09
This marks the final mission of the Delta II rocket, which first launched on February 14, 1989, and launched 155 times including ICESat-2.
NASA's most advanced space satellite created to precisely measure changes in Earth's ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation around the world was launched from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on September 15, 2018.
ICESat-2 was launched with the last-ever Delta II rocket - in operation since 1989. But now, Global Positioning System satellites are larger and require larger launch vehicles than the Delta II.
A Delta 2 rocket lifted off September 15 carrying a NASA Earth science satellite on the final flight of a vehicle whose heritage dates back to the beginning of the Space Age.
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.
By precisely measuring the elevation of land ice, Atlas and ICESat-2 will help scientists develop a better sense of how much and how quickly that ice is melting in a warming world.
The Delta 2's RS-27A main engine burst to life at 6:02 a.m.
It is the United States space agency's most advanced laser satellite and will use its range of capabilities to accurately measure sea levels and sea ice cover.
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The newly launched satellite was built by Northrop Grumman.
Dr Tom Neumann, deputy project scientist for the new satellite, said it would provide "a phenomenal picture" of changes in the planet's ice sheets and water. 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.
ICESat-2 will orbit Earth's poles, allowing ATLAS to cover the entire planet as it rotates below.
The launch was conducted from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and was broadcast live on the company's website.
This is "one of the most wonderful machines we've ever launched into space", ICESat-2 program scientist Tom Wagner said in a statement.
"Set your alarm to see lift-off - no earlier than 8:46am ET", NASA tweeted a few hours ago. Every 91 days - 1,387 orbits - ICESat-2 will return to its starting point and begin repeating its initial observations.
It also carries twin ELFIN CubeSats.
Today's launch will be met by favorable weather conditions, the space agency announced yesterday, although the area's propensity for fog might hinder the locals' plans of watching the rocket blast off into space.
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