NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) successfully launched from California at 9:02 a.m. EDT Saturday, embarking on its mission to measure the ice of Earth’s frozen reaches with unprecedented accuracy.
ICESat-2 lifted off from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base on United Launch Alliance’s final Delta II rocket. Ground stations in Svalbard, Norway, acquired signals from the spacecraft about 75 minutes after launch. It’s performing as expected and orbiting the globe, from pole to pole, at 17,069 mph from an average altitude of 290 miles.
“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.
ICESat-2 carries a single instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS). ATLAS will be activated approximately two weeks after the mission operations team completes initial testing of the spacecraft. Then ICESat-2 will begin work on its science objective, gathering enough data to estimate the annual height change of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to within four