Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA blasts off space laser satellite to track ice loss

NASA blasts off space laser satellite to track ice loss

Delta II rocket carrying launch NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on September 15, 2018.

The 40-minute launch window opened at 5:46 a.m. Liftoff was delayed until 6:02 a.m.so that the United Launch Alliance team would have more time to fix a potential temperature issue.

ICESat-2 follows up on an earlier NASA mission that used laser-ranging data to measure ice sheet balance and sea level.

"I'm a little bit sad". If it goes up without a hitch, it will be the 100th successful launch in a row. "ICESat-2 is going to do cutting-edge, scientific data gathering".

Importantly, the laser will measure the slope and height of the ice, not just the area it covers.

For its 155th and final mission, the Delta II flew in its 7420-10 configuration, outfitted with four Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) side-mounted boosters, which were jettisoned 1 minute and 22 seconds into the flight, and a 10-foot-diameter (3-meter) payload fairing, which was similarly disposed of about 4 minutes later as the rocket climbed into space.

The melt from those ice sheets alone has raised global sea level by more than 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) a year recently, according to NASA.


The mission will build on the results of an earlier, less powerful ICESat mission and a more limited NASA aircraft campaign known as IceBridge, all aimed at monitoring the planet's ice inventory over decadal time scales.

If all proceeds to plan, the Delta II's second stage AJ10-118K engine will reignite for 6 seconds at 47 minutes into the mission before deploying ICESat-2 into orbit.

The final telemetry in Delta II history is expected about 2 hours after launch, sometime prior to the second stage impacting and sinking into the South Pacific Ocean.

Delta II launches have split time between Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station over the years.

NASA kicked off its ICESat-2 mission to monitor our planet's ice sheets from space using a laser-scanning satellite this morning, with a launch that marked the end of a almost 30-year run for United Launch Alliance's Delta 2 rocket.

"This program comes to a close with the final launch of NASA's ICESat-2, but its legacy will continue and the Visitor Complex will help us keep the story of the success of this much-revered rocket in the hearts and minds of the public".

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