The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is the 2nd-generation of the orbiting laser altimeter ICESat. ICESat is the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. From 2003 to 2009, the ICESat mission provided multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It also provided topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Laser altimetry is a proven method for measuring the height and inferring the volume of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice. Although sea ice extent has been monitored by satellite since the 1970s, comparable record exists for ice thickness. Laser altimetry is also the preferred technique for measuring ice volume over large areas and long time periods. It has also proven useful for measuring the depth of forest canopies, an indicator of biomass.
ICESat-II will extend the unique record of ICESat into the next decade to provide data that, together with the data provided by GRACE-II, will enable scientists to monitor both the mass and the thickness of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and clarify their contributions to sea-level rise.
The payload will include a single-channel liar with GPS navigation and pointing capability to allow for repeated high-accuracy sampling of ice elevation. Limitations to the lidar technology now being used in ICESat will be corrected in ICESat-II