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Esa's CryoSat ready for launch

Published by Matt on Fri Sep 4, 2009 11:47 am via: source
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The European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite is designed to provide new measurements of the extent and the thickness of the Earth’s polar ice sheets. CryoSat’s innovation is that it will not only be able to map the extent of the ice cover but will also measure the thickness of the ice sheets.

This will provide information on ice volume and will therefore further our understanding of the effects climate change is having, and will have, on global ice cover.  

CryoSat will acquire accurate measurements of the thickness of floating sea-ice (Credit:ESA)

CryoSat will acquire accurate measurements of the thickness of floating sea-ice (Credit:ESA)

After the successful launch in 2002 of Envisat, the largest Earth observation satellite ever built, ESA started to develop the Earth Explorer missions in order to provide a moderate-cost, fast response to important scientific issues using cutting-edge technologies. As the first of these missions, the original CryoSat was launched in 2005, but the launch resulted in failure with the remains of the satellite crashing down near the North Pole shortly after lift-off.

Following the successful launch of ESA’s gravity mission GOCE on 17 March of this year and the upcoming launch of ESA’s water mission SMOS in November, the CryoSat mission will finally get off the ground with the spacecraft rebuilt by prime contractor Astrium, becoming ESA’s third Earth Explorer in orbit.

Scheduled for launch this December aboard a Dnepr launcher from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, CryoSat is set to significantly improve our knowledge of global ice mass. The mission will enhance our understanding of how the polar regions are influenced by climate change as well as our knowledge of the interaction between sea ice and the oceans. It may also trigger a number of practical applications, such as improved understanding of ocean circulation and greater insights into current and future changes in sea level.

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