Delta II rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB

Mindy Sparks
September 15, 2018

A NASA satellite created to precisely measure changes in Earths ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation was launched into polar orbit from California early Saturday.

The ICESat-2 satellite - the acronym stands for Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite 2 - is the most sophisticated ice-monitoring spacecraft ever launched, equipped with advanced electronics and a laser that will fire 10,000 pulses per second at the ground below and then capture the faint reflections. According to NASA, it will collect more than 250 times as many measurements as the first ICESat.

ICESat-2 deputy project scientist Tom Neumann said the satellite measurements would serve as a reality check for the computer models that predict future impacts of climate change. "Every minute of every hour of every day for the next three years".

Liftoff came at 6:02 a.m. PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, after a slight delay in the countdown due to concerns about the chilldown of the rocket's helium bottles.

According to ULA, McDonnell Douglas created the rocket in the late 1980s to launch Global Positioning System satellites for the Air Force. The early moments of the flight appeared normal as the vehicle accelerated toward orbit. Going into Saturday's flight, the boosters had chalked up 154 launches with only one outright failure in 1997, 100 flights ago.

"It's been a very, very prominent part of space history", said Scott Messer, program manager for NASA programs at ULA, during a pre-launch press conference Wednesday (Sep. 13). "Delta II holds a really special place in so many folks in the launch industry hearts".

"The big question we always get asked is, 'Will we be able to see the launch?' Unfortunately, if you live here at Vandenberg, you know the marine layer likes to hug the coast, and we are forecasting some low clouds with patchy fog, which would reduce visibility 2 to 3 miles", said 1st Lt. Daniel Smith, launch weather officer with the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg.

The first Delta 2 lifted off on February 14, 1989, and since then it has been the launch vehicle for Global Positioning System orbiters, Earth observing and commercial satellites, and interplanetary missions including the twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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