The launch of NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite is coming up next month, and it brings all sorts of excitement.
Slated for September 12, the event is taking place 15 years after the original ICESat soared to skies and will be using the exact same United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket that ferried this mission’s predecessor into space.
This will be the final launch for the Delta II, which has a “rich history” of more than 150 spaceflights under its belt and “many memorable missions, including NASA’s rovers Spirit and Opportunity,” notes ULA.
While the September 12 launch marks the Delta II rocket’s swansong, the ICESat-2 satellite (short for Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2) is just getting started.
Scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Airforce Base near Lompoc, California, the satellite is essentially one giant space laser traveling to Earth’s low orbit to make precise measurements of our planet and find out how much its cryosphere (the frozen and icy areas) is changing.
Backstage Pass To See The Delta II Launch
Next month’s launch will definitely be exciting to watch from home and even more exhilarating to witness in person — something that 50 lucky members of the public will get to experience first-hand and tweet about to the rest of the world.
Just like in the case of SpaceX’s latest Dragon launch — for which NASA handed out 40 backstage passes to the public, the Inquisitr recently reported — the space agency is offering credentials to social media users to attend the final liftoff of Delta II and its ICESat-2 payload.
“Ice, ice baby! Experience the launch of NASA’s ICESat-2, and the final Delta II rocket,” NASA announced on Friday.
“Ice, space lasers, penguins and a workhorse rocket’s last liftoff — it’s the stuff great tweets are made of.”
If you want to be in the middle of the action and snatch one of the coveted 50 social media accreditations, submit your application by July 22 and await confirmation that you have been selected.
Those who are chosen will be awarded the unique chance of taking part in a grand three-day event that starts on September 10.
During those three days, the members of the public will have the chance to tour the facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base, be present at a special televised pre-launch briefing, take photos of the Delta II rocket on the launch pad, and pick the brains of ICESat-2 mission scientists and engineers — all culminating with the last launch of the Delta II.
Aside from watching the rocket ascend to the heavens, the launch attendees will get to snap their own unique photos from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg and share them all over social media.
The ICESat-2 Mission
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, which was active from 2003 until 2009, the ICESat-2 satellite is tasked with measuring the height of our planet’s icy features.
“The mission is designed to focus on changes in the ice sheets and sea ice in Antarctica and the Arctic, where warming temperatures are having dramatic effects. The satellite will track the changes in these polar regions and around the globe,” NASA explained last month.
Equipped with just one science instrument — the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS — the spacecraft will fire its photon-counting laser at Earth and time each laser pulse, coming in at rates of 10,000 per second, to measure how high the mapped surface is.
“The satellite’s novel laser instrument measures height by timing individual photons of light to the billionth of a second, which will allow scientists to precisely measure change, including the impacts of a warming climate,” NASA revealed on Friday.