Final Delta 2 Rocket Launches From Vandenberg Carrying $1B Ice Probe

Final Delta 2 Rocket Launches From Vandenberg Carrying $1B Ice Probe

Final Delta 2 Rocket Launches From Vandenberg Carrying $1B Ice Probe

Team Vandenberg successfully launched a Delta II rocket carrying NASAs ICESat-2 payload from Space Launch Complex-2 here, Saturday, September 15, at 6:02 a.m. PDT.

As for the Delta 2 rocket used for the launch, this was its last mission, stated United Launch Alliance.

The maiden Delta II took flight on Valentine's Day in 1989, successfully delivering the first operational Global Positioning System satellite into space.

"If you think about that, the Delta 2 vehicle has touched the lives of probably every single person in America in the technology it has enabled over its 30 years", said Scott Messer, manager of NASA programs for United Launch Alliance.

ICESat-2 was designed, among other things, to monitor and measure the thickness of ice cap at the Earth's North and South Pole. The launch window will remain open for 2.5 hours, with a backup window available on Sunday morning.

At launch, the satellite was scheduled to operate for three years, but much of its 3,482 lbs.

The same rocket launched the original ICESat satellite back in 2003 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

It is able to measure the time it takes for the laser's photons to return to earth with an accuracy of less than one billionth of a second and will take a measurement every 70cm (2.3ft) along its path.

NASA has launched a laser satellite to track the loss of ice sheets and glaciers across the world as the climate warms.

"I'm a little bit melancholy about this", said Tim Dunn, NASA launch director, at the briefing. "ICESat-2 is going to do cutting-edge, scientific data gathering".

Multiple orbits over the poles will give it a vantage point of 300 miles (482km) above the Earth to fire special lasers downward at 10,000 times each second to make its measurements. The satellite's orbit will take 91 days before repeating, allowing the device to measure the same locations four times a year, so scientists can see how they change over seasons.

"ICESat-2 will let us get at the thickness by measuring the sea ice freeboard - that's the height of the sea ice above the ocean", Tom Neumann, ICESat-2's deputy project scientist, told UPI. With that data, scientists can forecast its likely impact on the world.

Today's launch will be met by favorable weather conditions, the space agency announced yesterday, although the area's propensity for fog might hinder the locals' plans of watching the rocket blast off into space.

Along with launching ICESat-2, the Delta 2's second stage also carried four small cubesats developed by university researchers.

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