Artist’s illustration of the ICESat 2 satellite and its six green laser beams designed to measure the height of ice sheets. Credit: NASA
The satellite awaiting launch early Saturday from California aboard the final flight of the venerable Delta 2 rocket should allow scientists to more precisely track changes in our planet’s ice sheets, using six green laser beams to chart the height and slope of polar ice and glaciers and providing a key input into climate change research.
Researchers who plan to analyze data from the new satellite say a better understanding of Earth’s ice will help them learn about our planet’s changing climate, and help predict how melting ice will contribute to rising sea levels.
NASA’s $1 billion ICESat 2 mission is set for liftoff at 5:46 a.m. EDT (8:46 a.m. EDT; 1246 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a military-run spaceport on California’s Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The satellite will ride into an orbit that flies pole-to-pole aboard the final flight of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 2 rocket, a workhorse launcher with 154 missions in its pedigree that is now on the verge of retirement.
ICESat 2 stands for Ice, Cloud and land ...