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  • Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved.
    Published 27 March 2013 Referencing Hub media

    Name: CryoSat-2

    Owner: European Space Agency

    Mission: environmental – measuring ice thickness

    Launch date: 2010

    Type of orbit: low-Earth orbit, non-Sun-synchronous

    Period: 99 minutes

    Perigee: 720 km

    Apogee: 732 km


    Dr Wolfgang Rack

    CryoSat-2 is at the moment the only satellite which is solely dedicated for ice research. It’s in a polar orbit, it is about 700 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. CryoSat-2 is a fairly small satellite because it is a very specialised satellite mission, and the main instrument is an improved version of a radar altimeter, which can measure the surface elevation at a much higher accuracy than previous radar altimeters. And very important for an accurate measurement of surface elevation is the position of the satellite, and therefore there is a second important instrument on this satellite, which actually measures very accurately the position of the orbit.

    The satellites flies with the ground speed of about 7 kilometres per second. So along this drag, we get sea ice thickness measurements, which are about 1 kilometre wide along that orbit, and those orbits are separated by several kilometres from one orbit pass to the next. So it’s built up, we get this information from ice thickness quite quickly.

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