Data collected by IceBridge helped scientists bridge the gap in polar observations of ice height between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which launched in 2003, and ICESat-2, which launched on September 15, 2018. ICESat stopped collecting science data in 2009, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations. IceBridge surveyed the Arctic and Antarctic areas once a year, typically in the springtime before summer melting began. The first Operation IceBridge flights were conducted in March/May 2009 over Greenland and in October/November 2009 over Antarctica. Other smaller airborne surveys around the world, in particular Alaska, were also part of the IceBridge mission.
The surveys were conducted from NASA’s DC-8 airborne science laboratory and periodically NASA's GV, or P3-Orion aircraft. The DC-8, managed by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, carried IceBridge’s full instrument suite.