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Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)

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Status: Completed
Mission Category: Earth Observing System (EOS)
Launch Date: January 12, 2003
Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA
Actual Completion Date: August 14, 2010

ICESat (Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite) is the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. From 2003 to 2009, the ICESat mission provided multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It also provided topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

Key Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite Facts

Mission/Portal Page: http://science.nasa.gov/missions/icesat/
Altitude:Distance from sea level. 600km
Inclination: 94°
Instruments: GLAS (Geoscience Laser Altimeter System)
GPSP (Global Positioning System Payload)
Project Scientist(s): H. Jay Zwally
Deputy Project Scientist(s): Thomas Newman

Related Publications:

  • ICESat (Mission Brochures - 2.08 MB)

Relevant Science Focus Areas:

  • Climate Variability and Change
  • Earth Surface and Interior
  • Water and Energy Cycles

Relevant Science Questions:

  • How does the Earth system respond to natural and human-induced changes?
  • How is the global Earth system changing?

Science Goals:

  • Provide repeated, precision, polar ice sheet elevations through time for improved mass-balance measurements
  • Provide atmosphere-cloud heights and aerosol distribution data
  • Provide land topography and vegetation cover data

Related Applications:

  • Air Quality
  • Carbon Management
  • Coastal Management
  • Ecological Forecasting
  • Water Management