ESA Sets CryoSat-2 Launch Date

PARIS, March 30 (UPI) — The European Space Agency says it has scheduled a revised launch date and time for its CryoSat-2 satellite, following installation of new flight software.

The satellite is to be launched April 8 at 8:57 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will be placed into an orbit 435 miles above Earth, from which it will monitor variations in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and changes in the vast ice sheets that overlie Greenland and Antarctica.

“CryoSat will be the third of ESA’s Earth Explorer satellites in orbit, following the launches of GOCE in March 2009 and SMOS in November 2009,” the space agency said. “It was originally due to be ESA’s first Earth Explorer, but the first satellite was lost as a result of a launcher failure in October 2005.”

The spacecraft will carry the first all-weather microwave radar altimeter for use in determining changes in the thickness of both floating sea ice, which can be up to several feet, and polar land ice sheets, which in Antarctica can be close to 16-feet, the space agency said. The mission will provide data on the rate of change of the ice thickness accurate to within 1 centimeter.

Data from the CryoSat mission will provide hard evidence on how the Earth’s ice is changing and will lead to a better understanding of the role ice plays in climate and sea-level change, ESA officials said.

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