Delta II ICESat-2 Launch Highlights

17 September, 2018, 18:01 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • The 6:46 a.m. MT launch lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's coast is the final mission of the medium-lift rocket that used to be the Centennial-based rocket manufacturer's work horse

The long life of the Delta II started on Valentine's Day in 1989, when it launched for the first time carrying the first operational Global Positioning System satellite into orbit.

The Delta II's second stage AJ10-118K engine reignited for 6 seconds about 47 minutes into the mission before deploying ICESat-2 into orbit.

Known as laser altimetry, ATLAS is a rather exceptional example of LIDAR's space-based utility and has been created to reliably measure ice-sheet elevation changes of as little as 4mm per year, despite the fact that it will orbit 500 km (310 mi) above Earth's surface at a velocity of 7.8 km/s (4.9 mi/s).

ICESat-2 boasts a fearsome pair of lasers (the second is a backup), which will fire at a rate of 10,000 times per second.

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

Its operators, Lockheed Martin and Boeing's joint United Launch Alliance, are switching over to their existing Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy fleets as well as the still-in-development Vulcan Centaur rocket.


As the Inquisitr previously reported, the goal of the ICESat-2 mission, short for Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2, is to keep track of Earth's thinning ice sheets and document the changes in the planet's cryosphere - all of the frozen water that makes up sea, lake, and river ice, as well as the snow cover and the planet's glaciers and ice caps.

"If you think about that, the Delta 2 vehicle has touched the lives of probably every single person in America in the technology it has enabled over its 30 years", said Scott Messer, manager of NASA programs for United Launch Alliance. NASA hopes that this data will help scientists better forecast the rise of the sea level, as well as provide a better understanding of climate change and its effects. The sensor stops the "stopwatch" and measures the photons' travel time to within 1-billionth of a second.

This weekend, NASA is planning to launch a spacecraft that will use half a dozen bright-green laser beams to measure seasonal and annual changes to Earth's icy poles.

Engineers building and testing the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) for the ICESat-2 mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

ICESat-2 will orbit Earth's poles, allowing ATLAS to cover the entire planet as it rotates below. Every 91 days - 1,387 orbits - ICESat-2 will return to its starting point and begin repeating its initial observations.

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