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