NASA launches laser device into space to measure Earth's polar ice

NASA launches laser device into space to measure Earth's polar ice

NASA launches laser device into space to measure Earth's polar ice

The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:02 a.m.

NASA's most advanced space satellite created to precisely measure changes in Earth's ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation around the world was launched from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on September 15, 2018.

Boeing - working as part of ULA - has completed the 100th consecutively successful launch of its 30-year-old Delta II rocket, bringing to an end the vehicle's storied history of missions for the United States military, NASA, and commercial customers. The launch will be the final journey of the Delta II rocket, which has been flying for 29 years.

The rocket's primary payload is NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 - or ICESat-2. The first Delta 2 started its work in February 1989 and had been used until recently to launch Global Positioning System orbiters, satellites for Earth observations or commercial satellites, and it was also the one that launched the two Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

ICESat-2 is NASA's most advanced Laser instrument - the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS.

Although the ICESat-2 mission is only slated to run for three years, the spacecraft carries enough fuel to last more than twice as long and could potentially carry on surveying the Earth's ice sheets for an entire decade, notes Space.

One more Delta 2 exists, but will not be launched.

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Nasa's most advanced space laser satellite blasted off on Saturday (Sept 15) on a mission to track ice loss around the world and improve forecasts of sea level rise as the climate warms.

"I'm a little bit melancholy about this", said Tim Dunn, NASA launch director, at the briefing.

The launch is a follow up to a satellite that was launched in 2003 and operated until 2009, the AP reported.

By measuring the time it takes the photons to complete a round trip - about 3.3 thousandths of a second - scientists can calculate how far away an ice surface is, compare it to surrounding areas and determine its relative height and thickness.

Multiple orbits over the poles will give it a vantage point of 300 miles (482km) above the Earth to fire special lasers downward at 10,000 times each second to make its measurements. Four CubeSats accompanied the ICESat-2 into space.

The Delta II has carried the majority of the Iridium communication satellites in orbit between 1998 and 2002. They will study space weather, how electrons are liberated from the Van Allen radiation belts and experimental technology that could prove useful for future spacecraft.

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