NASA To Launch Advanced Laser ICESat-2 To Study Earth’s Polar Ice


In September, NASA plans to launch its ICESat-2, equipped with an advanced laser, to study in great details the changes that occur in the Earth’s polar ice. NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 or ICESat-2 would measure the annual elevation changes of the ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland.

“The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 – a top recommendation of the scientific community in NASA’s first Earth science decadal survey – will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise,” stated Michael Freilich from the NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

NASA is studying Earth’s polar ice changes for 15 years with the first ICESat space probe launched in 2003, while the NASA’s Operation IceBridge commenced in 2009. Now, NASA’s ICESat-2 will take off next month equipped with advanced laser technology for better reading of the changes in the elevation of the ice covering Antarctica and Greenland.

The advanced laser equipment on ICESat-2 is a significant technological breakthrough

ICESat-2 uses the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) which is an advanced laser that measures the differences in elevation of the Earth’s polar ice sheets by calculating how long it takes for light photons to travel to the target and back.

“ATLAS required us to develop new technologies to get the measurements needed by scientists to advance the research. That meant we had to engineer a satellite instrument that not only will collect incredibly precise data, but also will collect more than 250 times as many height measurements as its predecessor,” explained Doug McLennan, the ICESat-2 project manager from the NASA’s Goddard.

ATLAS will fire its advanced laser 10,000 times per second to send several hundreds of trillions of photons to the Earth. The course of the beams would be measured to the billionth of a second for the most precise measurement of elevation changes in Earth’s polar ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland.

NASA will launch the ICESat-2 advanced laser system in space in September.


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