September 14, 2009

ESA CyroSat mission to launch in February

The European Space Agency says it has set a new launch date of Feb. 28 for its CryoSat mission, which was originally to have been launched in December.

The ESA said the planned launch had to be re-scheduled due to the limited availability of facilities at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The satellite has already spent over six months in storage waiting for a launch opportunity, said Richard Francis, the ESA's CyroSat project manager. We restarted test activities in April hoping to have a clear run, but unfortunately we will now have to put the satellite back into its container for another few months.

CryoSat will be the third of ESA's Earth Explorer satellites that are designed to improve science's understanding of how the Earth system works and the effect that human activity is having on natural Earth processes.

During its lifetime of at least three years, CryoSat will help scientists determine exactly how the thickness of the huge ice sheets on land and the ice floating in the oceans is changing, the ESA said. The satellite will carry the first all-weather microwave radar altimeter that can detect changes in the elevation of both types of ice.