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Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)

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Status: Current, Prime Mission
Mission Category: Earth Systematic Missions Program, Decadal Survey 2007
Launch Date: September 15, 2018
Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base
Designed Life: September 15, 2021

The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission is one of the first four missions recommended for launch by NASA by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) within Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. The ICESat-2 mission will provide elevation measurements over the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets to quantify changes in ice-sheet mass, the mechanisms that drive that change (variations in accumulation, changes in ice melt, or ice flow acceleration/deceleration), and the impact of these changes on future global sea level; monitor changes in sea-ice thickness to examine ice-ocean-atmosphere exchanges of energy, mass, and moisture; and measure vegetation canopy height as a basis for estimating large-scale biomass and biomass change.

Key Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 Facts

Mission/Portal Page:
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Altitude:Distance from sea level. 481km
Inclination: 92°
Instruments: ATLAS (Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System)
GPSP (Global Positioning System Payload)
Project Scientist(s): Thorsten Marcus
Deputy Project Scientist(s): Thomas Newman
Program Scientist(s): Thomas Wagner
Other Key Personnel: Richard Slonaker

Related Publications:

Relevant Science Focus Areas:

  • Climate Variability and Change
  • Earth Surface and Interior
  • Water and Energy Cycles

Relevant Science Questions:

  • How are global ecosystems changing?
  • How can climate variations induce changes in the global ocean circulation?
  • How is the global sea level affected by natural variability and human-induced change in the Earth system?
  • How will future carbon cycle dynamics and terrestrial and marine ecosystems change in the future?
  • What changes are occurring in the mass of the Earth’s ice cover?

Science Goals:

  • Quantify how much melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level changes.
  • Quantify how ice sheets, glaciers, and more are gaining or losing mass at a regional level, to help researchers understand the mechanisms behind those changes.
  • Estimate the thickness of sea ice and monitor any changes.
  • Measure the height of vegetation in forests and other ecosystems worldwide.

Related Applications:

  • Air Quality
  • Carbon Management
  • Coastal Management
  • Ecological Forecasting
  • Water Management