by Goddard Space Flight Center

More articles in Satellites

NASA's Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has arrived at its California launch site for final preparations leading to a liftoff this winter. ICESat left Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., on October 22 on its two-day journey to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., arriving there on Oct. 24.

"We are delighted to be entering this phase of the program and are looking forward to the launch in December," said Jim Watzin, ICESat Project Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md.

The 2,108 pound spacecraft is the primary payload to be lifted into orbit aboard a Delta II rocket. The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer (CHIPS) satellite, the first in NASA's University-class Explorers Program designed to examine the interstellar medium, will fly on the same rocket as a secondary payload.

ICESat will accurately measure the height of the Earth's polar ice masses, land and ocean surfaces, and clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere using advanced laser technology. The mission's primary goal is to quantify ice sheet growth or retreat and to thereby answer questions concerning many related aspects of the Earth's climate system, from global warming to changes in sea level.

The ICESat satellite consists of a spacecraft with one instrument, the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), star trackers, and on-board GPS. GLAS, a next generation space-lidar, was designed and built at NASA Goddard.

The spacecraft was developed at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Kennedy Space Center is providing the expendable Boeing Corporation Delta II launch vehicle. Mission operations will be conducted by GSFC and University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

ICESat is a key component of NASA's Earth Observing System program. ICESat will determine whether the polar ice sheets are growing or shrinking, and how the ice masses may change in future climate conditions.

For more information on ICESat see: