ICESat-2 Orbit

  • Released Friday, November 3rd, 2017
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:06AM
  • ID: 4373

ICESat-2 is a spacecraft designed to accurately measure land and ice elevations on Earth. By comparing observations from different times, scientists will be able to study changes in elevations. ICESat-2 will be in a polar orbit which will provide high coverage near the poles where ice elevations are changing relatively quickly. This visualization shows ICESat-2's polar orbit from afar, then closer up. As we get close to the satellite, the 3 pairs of ICESat-2's ATLAS lidar laser beams begin to resolve. A ground track shows ICESat-2's global coverage which repeats about once every 90 days.

The ATLAS lidar on ICESat-2 uses 3 pairs of laser beams to measure the earth’s elevation and elevation change. As a global mission, ICESat-2 will collect data over the entire globe, however the ATLAS instrument is optimized to measure land ice and sea ice elevation in the polar regions.

For more information on ICESat-2 click here.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

Terra and Aqua BMNG (A.K.A. Blue Marble: Next Generation) (Collected with the MODIS sensor)

Credit: The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

Dataset can be found at:

See more visualizations using this data set
GEOS Atmospheric Model
ICESat-2 STK Ephemeris
Hipparcos Tycho Catalogue (A.K.A. Tycho 2 Catalogue) (Collected with the Telescope sensor)

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.