ESA PR 03-2010- 2010 Feb 15
The European Space Agency is about to launch the most sophisticated satellite ever to investigate the Earth’s ice fields and map ice thickness over water and land: lift-off scheduled for 25 February.
CryoSat will be the third of ESA’s Earth Explorer satellites in orbit, following on from GOCE (launched in March 2009) and SMOS (launched in November 2009). It was originally due to be the first in the Earth Explorer series, but the first satellite was lost as a result of a launcher failure in October 2005.
The 700 kg CryoSat spacecraft – whose name comes from the Greek kruos meaning icy cold – carries the first all-weather microwave radar altimeter. The instrument has been optimised for determining changes in the thickness of both floating sea ice, which can be up to several metres, and polar land ice sheets, which in Antarctica can be up to five kilometres. The mission will deliver data on the rate of change of the ice thickness accurate to within one centimetre.