European Space Agency's Ice Mission

European Space Agency's Ice Mission

Todd Standley
Published: 04/15/2010

 
“We switched SIRAL on and it worked beautifully from the very start. Our first data were taken over the Antarctic’s Ross Ice Shelf, and clearly show the ice cover and reflections from underlying layers. These are excellent results at such an early stage and are a tribute to the hard work of the entire CryoSat community,” said Prof. Duncan Wingham, CryoSat’s Lead Investigator.

The satellite is in a polar orbit, reaching latitudes of 88°. This orbit brings it closer to the poles than earlier Earth observation satellites, covering an additional 4.6 million sq km – an area larger than all 27 European Union member states put together.

CryoSat-2’s sophisticated instruments will measure changes at the margins of the vast ice sheets that lie over Greenland and Antarctica and marine ice floating in the polar oceans. By accurately measuring thickness change in both types of ice, CryoSat-2 will provide information critical to scientists’ understanding of the role ice plays in the Earth system.

“We are very happy with the first calibration results from SIRAL. The data are now being processed and made available almost immediately to the commissioning teams. We are now optimising the data-processing system and results will be released once we have accumulated enough data,” said Tommaso Parrinello, ESA’s CryoSat mission Manager.

Marking a significant achievement for ESA’s Earth observation programme, CryoSat-2 is the third of its Earth Explorer satellites to be placed in orbit, all within a little over 12 months. CryoSat-2 follows on from the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission, launched in March 2009, and the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, launched last November.