Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Last Delta II successfully launches ICESat-2 from Vandenberg

Final Delta 2 rocket launches $1 billion ice probe Last Delta II Rocket Launches NASA Satellite to Map Earth's Ice with Space Laser
Cary Marshall | 16 September, 2018, 15:09

The ICESat-2 was sent into orbit by a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 6.02am (2.02pm United Kingdom time).

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

For veteran launch team members, Saturday's blastoff brought mixed emotions.

"I'm a little bit melancholy about this", said Tim Dunn, NASA launch director, at the briefing. With that data, scientists can forecast its likely impact on the world.

NASA on Saturday launched its most advanced laser device into space to measure changes in the heights of Earth's polar ice, as well as other topographical features.

For its 155th and final mission, the Delta II flew in its 7420-10 configuration, outfitted with four Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) side-mounted boosters, which were jettisoned 1 minute and 22 seconds into the flight, and a 10-foot-diameter (3-meter) payload fairing, which was similarly disposed of about 4 minutes later as the rocket climbed into space.

More news: Mother, baby dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas

Importantly, the laser will measure the slope and height of the ice, not just the area it covers.

The launch was the last for a Delta 2 rocket, United Launch Alliance said.

The launch was ULA's Delta II rocket's 153rd success - and its last because ULA is retiring the model. Scientists will be able to combine the new ice-related data with measurements captured by a variety of other satellites and instruments, helping scientists uncover hidden relationships between ice and other ocean and atmospheric phenomena - wind, current, temperature, precipitation and more.

After the satellite's separation, ULA's Tory Bruno announced that an unpurchased Delta II rocket will join the "rocket garden" display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral Florida.

The mission will build on the results of an earlier, less powerful ICESat mission and a more limited NASA aircraft campaign known as IceBridge, all aimed at monitoring the planet's ice inventory over decadal time scales. Once a mainstay of both government and commercial customers, the vehicle went through a gradual phaseout after the U.S. Air Force shifted payloads like Global Positioning System satellites to EELV-class rockets, including ULA's Atlas 5 and Delta 4 and, more recently, SpaceX's Falcon 9.

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