CryoSat-2 ice mission ready for launch

March 30, 2010
Ice mission ready for launch

( -- A UK-led CryoSat-2 satellite designed to monitor changes in ice cover at the poles will launch at 13:57 UK time on 8 April 2010 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 will measure the thickness of Arctic and Antarctic ice with unprecedented accuracy and tell scientists how melting affects ocean circulation patterns, sea level and global climate.

CryoSat-2 is the third of ESA's Earth Explorer missions and follows the successful launches of the GOCE ( and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer) and SMOS ( and ) satellites last year. Its launch is a testament to Europe's commitment to the mission following the launch failure of CryoSat-1 in 2005.

CryoSat-2's chief scientist, Professor Duncan Wingham from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling - part of the National Centre for Earth Observation - at University College London first proposed the satellite in 1999. He said, "Satellites have transformed our knowledge of what is happening to these distant and uninhabited parts of the planet. CryoSat-2 will help unravel the consequences of the dramatic changes in the poles that we've seen in the past two decades."

Professor Alan O'Neill, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation said, "Measurements from CryoSat-2 are crucially important for scientists at the National Centre for Earth Observation who are at the forefront in monitoring Earth's changing ice cover."

CryoSat-2 will use an instrument called an altimeter to measure ice thickness. This works by recording the time it takes for pulses of microwave energy fired down at the ice to return to the satellite. Scientists can use the difference between how long it takes for the echoes to return from the top of ice floes and from the water in cracks in the ice to calculate how thick the ice is.

Significant retreats in summer in recent years means there's also more potential for winds to 'spin up' the Arctic Ocean. This could change ocean circulation patterns far beyond the Arctic - as far as the North Atlantic. Changes here could affect the UK's weather. CryoSat-2 will tell scientists how winds affect the Arctic Ocean by measuring changes in the height of the sea surface exposed between ice floes.

A second antenna will measure the ice's shape and so tell researchers about slopes and ridges at the edges of the great Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. This is important, because the edges are where the fastest changes are taking place.

CryoSat-2's ability to monitor changes at the poles will surpass the abilities of earlier ESA satellites - its radar has been specifically designed for the task and its orbit will cover much more of the Arctic and Antarctica than has previously been possible.

Explore further: CryoSat set for launch

Related Stories

CryoSat set for launch

October 8, 2005

It's all systems go for the CryoSat spacecraft launch from Russia, European Space Agency officials said Friday.

British climate satellite to be launched

October 5, 2005

A British satellite designed to give an extremely accurate picture of climate changes at the Earth's poles is set for launch Saturday from Plesetsk, Russia.

CryoSat to observe Earth's ice cover (w/ Video)

February 15, 2010

( -- The European Space Agency is about to launch the most sophisticated satellite ever to investigate the Earth's ice fields and map ice thickness over water and land: lift-off scheduled for 25 February.

Countdown to satellite launch

October 6, 2005

The first satellite to accurately measure how fast the Earth's polar ice caps are shrinking will be launched this weekend (on Saturday, October 8) and one of the lead researchers is from the University of Aberdeen.

CryoSat launch delayed

February 19, 2010

( -- The launch of ESA's CryoSat-2 satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, scheduled for 25 February, has been delayed due to a concern related to the second stage steering engine of the Dnepr launcher.

February launch for ESA's CryoSat ice mission

September 14, 2009

( -- As members of the media visit IABG’s spacecraft test centre in Germany to learn more about ESA’s CryoSat mission and view the satellite, a new target launch date of 28 February 2010 has been announced.

Recommended for you

NASA missions harvest a passel of 'pumpkin' stars

October 27, 2016

Astronomers using observations from NASA's Kepler and Swift missions have discovered a batch of rapidly spinning stars that produce X-rays at more than 100 times the peak levels ever seen from the sun. The stars, which spin ...

A dead star's ghostly glow

October 27, 2016

The eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula. But don't be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.