NASA launching laser satellite to study Earths changing ice

What in news:

  The Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) satellite is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 15.

About news:

  NASA is launching a laser-armed satellite next month that will measure in unprecedented detail changes in the heights of Earths polar ice to understand what is causing ice sheets to melt fast.

Reason to launch:

  In recent years, contributions of melt from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica alone have raised global sea level by more than a millimeter a year, accounting for approximately one-third of observed sea level rise, and the rate is increasing.

About ICESat-2:

  Called the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the mission is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 15.

  ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second

  ICESat-2 will improve upon NASAs 15-year record of monitoring the change in polar ice heights. It started in 2003 with the first ICESat mission and continued in 2009 with NASAs Operation

  IceBridge, an airborne research campaign that kept track of the accelerating rate of change.

  ICESat-2s Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.

  ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light.

  With so many photons returning from multiple beams, ICESat-2 will get a much more detailed view of the ice surface than its predecessor.

  As it circles Earth from pole to pole, ICESat-2 will measure ice heights along the same path in the polar regions four times a year, providing seasonal and annual monitoring of ice elevation changes.

  Beyond the poles, ICESat-2 will also measure the height of ocean and land surfaces, including forests.

 

Expected prelims question:

Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) developed by

a)      ISRO

b)      NASA

c)      ESA

d)      JAXA

ANS - b

Expected mains question:

The Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) satellite was developed by NASA. Discuss the reasons behind its launch and add a note on its features.