April 8, 2010

Successful Launch For CryoSat-2

The CryoSat-2 satellite, which will monitor the impact of global climate change on marine ice in the North and South poles, was successfully launched at 8:57 CDT Thursday morning.

According to an April 8 European Space Agency (ESA) press release, CryoSat-2 was propelled into space "on a Dnepr rocket provided by the International Space Company Kosmotras from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The signal confirming that it had separated from the launcher came 17 minutes later from the Malindi ground station in Kenya."

The primary cargo of the satellite is the SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), a device created by Thales Alenia Space in order to measure the thickness of and track changes to both land based and oceanic ice formations. CryoSat-2 will maintain a polar orbit at a latitude of 88 degrees--closer than any observation satellite to date--and will cover more than 4.5 million square kilometers of area.

On Wednesday, prior to the launch, co-project director Heinrich Miller told Associated Press (AP) writer Verena Schmitt-Roschmann that the ESA scientists "hope to find out more about the role the sea ice plays for the climate system and more about the height of the land ice" through CryoSat-2. "We know that it is dwindling but we don't know exactly what mechanisms are at work."

The third of the ESA's "Earth Explorers" satellites, CryoSat-2 is a reconstructed version of an original climate monitoring unit that had been lost in 2005 due to a rocket failure. Work on the second CryoSat satellite began in 2006. ESA officials have called it the "most sophisticated ever to investigate the Earth's ice fields" and predicted that it will operate for at least three to five years.


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