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Artist's impression of ICESat orbiting Earth.
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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.

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