ICESat-2 to launch on last trip for Delta II rocket

18 September, 2018, 12:10 | Author: Ann Santiago
  • Final Delta 2 rocket launch puts NASA’s ICESAT-2 satellite in orbit to monitor ice

The Southland could be in for an early morning aerial treat Saturday, thanks to the planned launch of a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc.

A NASA satellite created to precisely measure changes in Earth's ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation was launched into orbit from California early Saturday.

"The Delta II rocket has been a venerable workhorse for NASA and civilian scientists, the US military, and commercial clients throughout its nearly 30 years of service", said in a statement Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance CEO. "It was a very challenging mission to come up with", said Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, during a prelaunch briefing September 13.

The official name is NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2.

The Delta 2's RS-27A main engine burst to life at 6:02 a.m.

For the next three years, the satellite "will measure the changing height of Earth's ice", space agency officials wrote on Twitter, and it will do so by relying on the unique capabilities of its space laser.

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Delta II set for final launch after nearly 30 years

ICESat-2 will measure the height of our changing Earth, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses per second.

NASA's Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis and launch management. The satellite is equipped with an Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which will send 10,000 laser pulses per second to Earth to measure the height of ice sheets, glaciers, forests and bodies of water. ICESat-2 was first proposed in 2008, but construction didn't begin until 2010, with an estimated launch date in 2015.

Measurements will be taken every 2.3 feet (0.7 meters) along the satellite's path.

"Watching and understanding how it [ice] is changing helps us understand why it's changing", said Waleed Abdalati, a geographer at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a concept designer of ICESat-2.

"Today's #ICESat2 launch comes with a bonus - a pair of tiny satellites that will study how energetic electrons make their way into our atmosphere from space", NASA tweeted.

"This allows the mission to look at the same piece of Earth in each of the four seasons, enabling scientists to use that data to characterize the changes that they're observing", Neumann said. During its operational life, it also sent up the Kepler telescope, the twin lunar-orbiting GRAIL spacecraft, and a total of 48 Global Positioning System satellites. "Space weather research is also crucial for space tourism and space exploration".

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