Meet NASA’s newest ice-monitoring satellite

The newest ICESat-2 satellite launches next month, and it carries some improved technology with it.

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NASA has plans to launch an advanced satellite-borne laser instrument next month to monitor our planet’s melting polar ice.

NASA’s new laser — part of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) program — would have the ability to collect more than 250 times the height measurements of polar ice compared to its predecessor.

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The laser also uses a new system called Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which would enable it send six beams of green light to the ground and to fire 10,000 times each second.

The laser would also have the ability to measure ice on Greenland and Antarctica “within the width of a pencil,” by capturing 60,000 measurements each second.

It would also be able to time how long it takes for light photons in the green light to travel to and from Earth.

NASA says ICESat-2 will get a more detailed view of the ice surface as it circles the Earth from pole to pole, measuring ice heights along the way four times a year.

NASA says the mission is scheduled to last for three years and hopes this new technology will bring about new data about our planet’s melting ice and how its changing.