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Mission Photos:

ICESat-2 satellite
Courtesy of ICESat-2 Science Team

Mission Objectives:

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite -2 (ICESat-2) is part of NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) program, which includes a series of satellites beginning in 1998 to measure Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land, ice, and biosphere for 15 years.

ICESat-2 Science Objectives:

  • Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change, as well as ice-sheet linkages to climate conditions.
  • Quantifying regional patterns of ice-sheet changes to assess what drives those changes, and to improve predictive ice-sheet models.
  • Estimating sea-ice thickness to examine exchanges of energy, mass and moisture between the ice, oceans and atmosphere.
  • Measuring vegetation canopy height to help researchers estimate biomass amounts over large areas, and how the biomass is changing.
  • Enhancing the utility of other Earth-observation systems through supporting measurements.

Mission Instrumentation:

ICESat-2 has the following instrumentation:

  • Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS)
  • Retroreflector array
Mission Parameters:
Sponsor: NASA, United States
Expected Life: 5 years
Primary Applications: ice-sheet elevation change, sea-ice freeboard, and vegetation canopy height
Primary SLR Applications: Satellite Laser Ranging is primarily used as independent validation and quantification of GPS-based precision orbit determination (POD). In addition, SLR is used in combination with GPS data to improve overall POD accuracy.
COSPAR ID: 1807001
SIC Code: 6873
NORAD SSC Code: 43613
Launch Date: September 15, 2018
RRA Diameter: 31.75mm
RRA Shape: hemispherical/pyramid
Inclination: 92 degrees
Eccentricity: 0.001398
Perigee: 496km
Period: 94.16 minutes

Additional Information:

Web sites:


  • Moussavi, M.S., Abdalati, W., Scambos, T., and Neuenschwander, A., "Applicability of an automatic surface detection approach to micro-pulse photon-counting lidar altimetry data: implications for canopy height retrieval from future ICESat-2 data", Int. J. Remote Sens., 35, 5263-5279, 2014