Artist's impression of ICESat orbiting Earth.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA

ICESat launch
News story originally written on January 17, 2003

NASA launched the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation satellite (ICESat) on January 12, 2003. ICESat will measure the height of the ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica. These measurements will help scientists determine whether the ice sheets are shrinking, growing, or staying the same size. Data about the size of the ice sheets will help answer questions about climate change, including possible changes in sea level caused by global warming. The main instrument on ICESat, the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), uses a laser to measure the height of ice sheets in the Earth's polar regions.

ICESat was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket. The satellite will orbit Earth about 600 kilometers (373 miles) up in a polar orbit that will carry it over both the North and South Poles.

The Delta II rocket also carried a second, smaller satellite. The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Spectrometer (CHIPS) satellite will study dust and gas in space. CHIPS is about the size of a large suitcase.

Last modified January 17, 2003 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Latest on Global Warming

A recent study by scientists at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research has shown that there is a 90% chance that global temperatures will rise 3-9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years....more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more

Mother Nature's Air Conditioning

J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA