NASA is all ready to launch its Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2 on Saturday. It will be tracking Earth's dissolving poles and melting ice caps.
The satellite is on a three-year mission and is booked to launch at 8.46 a.m. EDT on September 15, with liftoff from a Satellite Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 (SLC-2), the US space office said in a blog post late on Tuesday.
ICESat-2 is NASA's highly advanced laser instrument — the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, also known as ATLAS.
The satellite will observe how ice sheets, icy masses, and ocean ice are changing, which could help in knowing into how these changes affect people where they live, NASA said. ICESat-2's orbit will make 1,387 individual ground tracks around Earth in 91 days and then start all over again to provide new, fresh data.
The first ICESat satellite (2003-09) measured ice with a single laser pillar, while the ICESat-2 parts its laser light into six beams improving it to make better observations. The beams are divided into three sets that will enable researchers to survey the slant of the surface they are observing, NASA said.
Further, the ICESat-2 will zoom over the planet at a speed of 7 km, or 4.3 miles per second, finishing a circle around Earth in an hour and a half. The orbits have been set to meet at the 88-degree latitude lines around the poles to focus on the areas where researchers hope to see the most changes. These height measurements come about because of timing the individual laser photons on their 600-mile round trip between the satellite and Earth's surface – a trip that is coordinated to inside 800 picoseconds, NASA said.
Global warming is quickly picking up the pace, and no doubt, the ice caps around the poles are melting. While the US under Donald Trump has opted out of the Paris agreement, it comes to more specialised operations, such as this by NASA to help understand these changes so that sensitive issues like climate change can be dealt with in a more efficient and effective manner.