NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation satellite (ICESat)
lifted off from Vandenberg
Air Force Base, Calif., at 4:45 p.m. PST aboard Boeing’s Delta II
rocket. Separation of the ICESat spacecraft occurred 64 minutes after
launch at 5:49 p.m. PST. Initial contact with ICESat was made 75 minutes
after launch at 6 p.m. PST as the spacecraft passed over the Svalbard
Ground Station in Norway.
“The Delta vehicle gave us a great ride! The ICESat spacecraft was right
where we expected and is performing great. The whole team is thrilled to
be having such a wonderful start to our mission” said Jim Watzin, the
ICESat Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in
Over the next few days the ICESat spacecraft will gradually be despun
and placed into a safe stable attitude. Within two weeks the onboard
propulsion system will gradually tune the orbit. Once in its final
orbital position, ICESat will be approximately 373 miles (600
kilometers) above the Earth.
ICESat is the latest in a series of Earth Observing System spacecraft,
following the Terra satellite launched in December 1999, and the Aqua
satellite launched earlier in May of this year. The primary role of
ICESat is to quantify ice sheet growth or retreat and to thereby answer
questions concerning many related aspects of the Earth’s climate system,
including global climate change and changes in sea level.