NASA's last Delta II rocket blasted into the atmosphere from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday carrying the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), Space.com reported, in the rocket's 155th and final mission.
Its last will be the ICESat-2 satellite for NASA, which will circle the globe and use a laser to measure the height of ice on the Earth. Since that first launch, Delta II rockets have launched 154 successful missions. As its successor, ICESat-2 will fill in more detail about the bigger picture by examining how ice cover changes over the course of one year.
The Delta 2's RS-27A main engine burst to life at 6:02 a.m. Between ice satellites, NASA used its airborne Operation IceBridge to continue monitoring crucial areas of ice from 2009 until now.
ICESat-2 will provide scientists with height measurements to create a global portrait of Earth's third dimension, gathering data that can precisely track changes of terrain including glaciers, sea ice, forests, and more. The early moments of the flight appeared same old because the vehicle accelerated in the direction of orbit.The Delta 2 debuted in February 1989 when it launched the principle operational International Positioning Scheme satellite from Cape Canaveral.
In just a few short moments, NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are about to make history with an epic rocket launch that has been the talk of the scientific community for the past months.
Richard Slonaker, ICESat-2 program executive at NASA, told reporters ahead of the launch that this mission is "exceptionally important for science".
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"ATLAS has the ability to time tag a single photon to billionth of a second accuracy, said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, the ATLAS instrument manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. And from that we can calculate a distance to about half a centimetre on the Earth".
The ICESat-2 will zoom above the planet at 7 km per second (4.3 miles per second), completing an orbit around Earth in 90 minutes.
Every three months, the spacecraft will travel over a total of 1,387 orbital paths, then begin to retrace its steps, ensuring it revisits the same swath of ice in 91-day increments.
It also carries twin ELFIN CubeSats.
The data will help scientists determine how climate change is affecting global ice levels, and how changes in the ice affect the height of Earth's oceans. They will study space weather, how electrons are liberated from the Van Allen radiation belts and experimental technology that could prove useful for future spacecraft.