Washington, Aug 24: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will on September 15 launch an advanced Laser satellite that will measure the change in Earth's polar caps with unprecedented accuracy.
The most advanced laser instrument will be launched into space which will measure - in unprecedented detail - changes in the heights of Earth's polar ice.
About NASA's ICESat-2
NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II 7320-10C from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California. It has been in the works for about 10 years. It is the second iteration of this satellite. The first - which used a much less precise laser - was operational from 2003 to 2009 and provided the space agency with elevation data needed to determine the mass balance of Earth's ice sheets, as well as information about cloud properties. It was decommissioned in 2010.
How the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise?
The satellite 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.
The $1.1 billion mission "will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.
Reason behind melting ice sheets and glaciers
Melting ice sheets and glaciers is mainly caused by global warming. It is one of the primary reasons sea level is rising across the globe. Sea level rises an average of .3 centimeters per year, according to NASA researchers, and a study published in conjunction with the European Space Agency in June found that Antarctic ice loss has tripled since 2012, causing sea levels across the globe to rise faster now than ever before in history.
Tracking Ice Melt
Hundreds of billions of tons of land ice melt or flow into the oceans annually, contributing to sea level rise worldwide. In recent years, contributions of melt from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica alone have raised global sea level by more than a millimeter a year, accounting for approximately one-third of observed sea level rise, and the rate is increasing.
How much is the cost of the satellite:
ICESat-2, which cost a little over $1 billion and is about the size of a Smart car, will follow two previous major NASA projects to monitor ice thickness.