Earth Observation Mission News
ICESat-2 laser fires for 1st time, measures Antarctic height
03 October 2018
The laser instrument that launched into orbit last month aboard NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) fired for the first time 30 September. With each of its 10,000 pulses per second, the instrument is sending 300 trillion green photons of light to the ground and measuring the travel time of the few that return: the method behind ICESat-2's mission to monitor Earth's changing ice. By the morning of 03 October, the satellite returned its first height measurements across the Antarctic ice sheet.
"We were all waiting with bated breath for the lasers to turn on and to see those first photons return," said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, the project manager for ICESat-2's sole instrument, called the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS. "Seeing everything work together in concert is incredibly exciting. There are a lot of moving parts and this is the demonstration that it's all working together."
Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center - Illustration of ICESat-2.