GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Next month, NASA will launch into space the most advanced laser instrument of its kind, beginning a mission to measure – in unprecedented detail – changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice.
NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (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.
Problems with lasers have caused a 17-month delay in the launch of a satellite that will measure changes in polar ice-sheet mass and elevation, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.
Two lasers designed for use aboard the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) failed during ground testing due to cracked crystal, the report stated. The lasers have been repaired and will be used for the $1 billion mission. Only one laser is needed for mission success; the other one is a backup in case of the failure of the primary laser.