Earth  ID: 11712

ICESat-2 Beauty Pass

The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, is a laser altimeter that will measure the heights of Earth’s surfaces. With ICESat-2’s high-resolution data, scientists will track changes to Earth’s ice-covered poles, which is witnessing dramatic temperature increases. The mission will also take stock of forests, map ocean surfaces, characterize clouds and more.

ICESat-2 carries a single instrument called the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), equipped with a multiple-beam laser, which sends 10,000 pulses of light to the ground each second. A small fraction of the light photons bounce off Earth’s surface and return to the instrument, where a photon-counting detector times their flight. Knowing this time, and the satellite’s position and orientation in space, scientists can calculate Earth’s elevation below.

ICESat-2 continues key elevation observations begun by the original ICESat satellite (2003 to 2009) and Operation IceBridge (2009 through present), to provide a portrait of change in the beginning of the 21st century. ICESat-2 is slated for launch on a Delta-II rocket in 2017.


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Chris Meaney (HTSI): Lead Animator
Ryan Fitzgibbons (USRA): Producer
Thorsten Markus (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Aaron E. Lepsch (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Project Support
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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