NASA is set to launch its Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2 on September 15. The satellite will track Earth’s melting poles and disappearing sea ice according to NASA. ICESat-2 is the NASA’s most advance laser instrument — the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS.
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The satellite will provide critical observations of how ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice are changing, leading to insights into how those changes impact people where they live, NASA said. ICESat-2’s orbit will make 1,387 unique ground tracks around Earth in 91 days and then start the same ground pattern again at the beginning.
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While the first ICESat satellite (2003-09) measured ice with a single laser beam, ICESat-2 splits its laser light into six beams making it better to cover more ground (or ice). The arrangement of the beams into three pairs will also allow scientists to assess the slope of the surface they are measuring, NASA said.
The ICESat-2 will zoom above the planet at 7 km per second (4.3 miles per second), completing an orbit around Earth in 90 minutes. The orbits have been set to converge at the 88-degree latitude lines around the poles, to focus the data coverage in the region where scientists expect to see the most changes.