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Cryosat – A Satellite On An Icy Mission

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  • npat1@juno.com
    Friedrichshafen - Nov 11, 2003 CryoSat, the ice research satellite developed and built by EADS Astrium for the European Space Agency ESA, is nearing completion
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2003
      Friedrichshafen - Nov 11, 2003
      CryoSat, the ice research satellite developed and built by EADS Astrium
      for the European Space Agency ESA, is nearing completion at a fast pace.
      The mechanical integration and the functional tests are in full swing at
      the Friedrichshafen based satellite centre.
      In spring 2004, CryoSat is to be transported to Munich for conducting
      tests under space conditions. Following successful testing, there is
      nothing to prevent its launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. The
      launch is scheduled in autumn 2004 on board a Rockot launcher.

      CryoSat is the next European environmental and climate satellite. Placed
      in a polar orbit it will measure changes in the thickness of ice sheets
      and polar ocean sea-ice cover for at least three years with unprecedented
      accuracy. The satellite will provide climate researchers with previously
      unavailable data from these uninhabited regions. The industrial contract
      amounts to some 70 million euros.

      The evidence of climate warming can be ignored no longer. As reported by
      the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (an international board of
      climate experts), the average global surface temperature rose by 0.6
      degrees in the 20th century. Climate data indicate that the 20th century
      was the warmest in the last thousand years.

      At the same time, since 1750, the concentration of greenhouse gases in
      the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane, has grown by 30 and
      150 percent respectively as a result of human activities.

      Using the models available at the moment, it is only partially possible
      to predict how these developments affect the climate. The predictions
      waver between a global warming of between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Centigrade
      in the next hundred years. As a consequence, experts expect some polar
      ice and glaciers to thaw. This could result in the water level of the
      oceans rising by up to a metre.

      Polar ice as a climate factor
      The presence of ice at the poles plays a central role for the global
      climate. Despite being thousands of kilometres away from the most
      inhabited areas, this ice has a profound effect on the climate in Europe,
      Asia and the Americas.

      Three aspects are most important:
      Snow and ice reflect sunlight extremely well
      A sea-ice cover insulates the water underneath and
      Large amounts of thawing ice affect the large-scale ocean currents.
      Polar ice reflects a large portion of the sunlight, and the amount of the
      absorbed and reflected light is balanced with the climate. If the polar
      ice begins to melt, less sunlight is reflected and therefore the polar
      region warms up. Consequently, more ice begins to melt and the reflective
      capabilities are thus further reduced. Due to this positive feedback
      effect, a self-accelerating warming ensues.

      In the night, open water radiates a large heat output of about 90 Watts
      per square metre. A snow-covered sea-ice slab floating upon the ocean
      beneath has a negative effect on this. To a certain extent, it acts as a
      thermal blanket and therefore plays a significant part in regulating the
      heat balance of the Earth. This effect is reduced as soon as the ice
      thins or decreases in extent.

      Ocean currents have a special influence on the climate. They act as heat
      pumps, as they disseminate the energy stored in the oceans around the
      entire globe. The most well known example is the Gulf Stream, which
      transports warm water from the tropics diagonally over the Atlantic to
      North Europe and provides Great Britain with a mild climate and ice-free
      ports up to North Scandinavia.

      If the ice sheets and the outer sea ice cover melt, the relatively larger
      quantities of fresh water could disrupt or even change these ocean
      currents � with unforeseeable effects for the climate.

      CryoSat � the first mission of the "Living Planet" Programme
      A large part of the uncertainties in the climate models of today is due
      to the fact that there is a lack of precise measurements of the polar ice
      and its development. Experts conjecture that the sea ice has receded by
      10 to 15 percent since 1950. The thickness of the Arctic ice is reported
      to have reduced by 40 percent in the last few decades. These statements,
      however, are extremely uncertain due to the lack of widespread
      information on sea-ice thickness.

      CryoSat is to fill in this gap in climate research. The satellite will
      start as the first Earth Explorer Mission of ESA�s "Living Planet"
      programme initiated in 1998. The aim of this research programme is to
      give answers to the urgent scientific questions.

      The "Living Planet" programme is pursuing two strategies: First, the so
      called Core Explorer Missions which are relatively complex and cost
      intensive Earth observation missions for scientific purposes and second,
      the Opportunity Missions using mature technology thus enabling fast and
      low cost project implementation.

      CryoSat will be the first Earth Explorer Opportunity Mission. In July
      1998, ESA called upon all scientists from its member countries for
      mission proposals for this programme.

      Researchers from University College London and other collaborating
      institutes, were supported by employees of Astrium in proposing CryoSat.
      Astrium�s early commitment in this mission ensuring low cost feasibility
      by simple and reliable technical concepts as early as in the first phase
      was unusual. In April 1999, the ESA programme committee selected CryoSat
      from a total of 27 submitted projects.

      Radar altimeter measures ice thickness
      CryoSat will circle the Earth in a polar orbit 720 km high. From there,
      its radar will measure the thickness and circumference of the polar ice
      sheets and sea-ice cover. Previous radar satellites, such as the European
      ERS 1 and 2 or Envisat, are only equipped with a single antenna. With
      this, they can deliver information about uniform ice surfaces with a
      large extent.

      CryoSat, on the other hand, has two antennas. Similar to the way in which
      humans, with two eyes, can see spatially, CryoSat�s double radar will be
      able to scan the upper surface very precisely. Experts call this radar
      interferometry. With this system, an average accuracy of one to three
      centimetres can be reached. Thus it can also collect data on
      inhomogeneous ice structures in the polar seas and glaciers or ice sheets
      with very steep walls.

      In order for this extreme precision of measurement to be attained, the
      orbiting altitude of the satellite must be constantly known. To determine
      this to within a few centimetres, ground stations emit signals, which are
      received and processed by an instrument named DORIS. The information
      about altitude, which is thereby produced, is then conveyed via the
      normal data stream to the ground station.

      CryoSat�s outer side also sports a laser retro reflector. Similar to
      cats� eyes in warning posts on the edge of a road, it reflects a ray of
      light. If one were to send a laser beam to CryoSat from a ground station
      and receive the reflected signal from the satellite, one would be able to
      determine the height of the satellite from the transit time.

      CryoSat�s radar altimeter functions regardless of daylight and can also
      penetrate clouds. Therefore, it is particularly suited to the research of
      the large polar ice sheets, which rise up to 4000 metres above sea level
      and which are often covered by clouds. The data from the CryoSat mission
      are to deliver information about the rate of change of these ice sheets.

      Working with a tight budget
      EADS Astrium is the prime contractor for CryoSat and thus responsible for
      a consortium of 31 companies. EADS Astrium itself is building the
      satellite platform and will integrate all instruments. Ultimately,
      Astrium is responsible for the reliability of the whole satellite to ESA.

      From the beginning, the special challenge of the CryoSat project for the
      EADS Astrium�s engineers was the apparently contradictory requirements of
      high reliability, fast realisation and a low cost.

      In the meantime, the satellite architecture of disarming simplicity and
      the proven hardware components supplied by the subcontractors have shown
      that the programme can be implemented as scheduled. The close partnership
      between scientists, ESA and the industrial consortium enables a lean
      management and, at the same time, more transparency and faster reaction
      time during the development and construction phases.


      Lidar Instruments Test Icesat

      Madison - Nov 05, 2003
      Since October 8, UW�Madison's lidar group has helped NASA test its
      ICEsat, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite that is studying
      changes in polar ice thickness and extent. UW's High Spectral Resolution
      Lidar measures the same atmospheric quantities measured by the Geoscience
      Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on the satellite and when ICEsat is
      directly overhead about every eight days, the two laser beams can meet to
      calibrate the GLAS. The UW instrument operates at the same wavelength as
      NASA's instrument.
      The two instruments both measure the heights of clouds and aerosols, such
      as haze and particles in smoke, in the atmosphere from precise
      measurements of the travel time of the laser pulses and, in the
      satellite's case, calculated against its orbit and instrument

      Both instruments are used in climate studies; the UW lidar is used
      particularly to finely tune numerical models of climate and weather,
      leading to increasingly better weather forecasts and a better
      understanding of Earth's climate.

      Calibration tests are dependent on the weather to work well. Thick clouds
      keep the beams from meeting. The scientists hope for cirrus clouds or
      haze for the maximum effect, and best test�something we can see through,
      but that gives a nice signal.

      NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center tentatively plans to test the GLAS
      this Friday afternoon, November 7. If the laser being tested is still on
      in mid-November�it may be turned off by then�the satellite will pass
      almost directly over Madison on the evening of November 11. Times will be
      known the day of the pass. If the weather is right, the UW lidar will be
      seen as a green beam and the satellite as a green flash, as captured in
      the video on the UW Lidar Web site.

      The UW lidar program has been developing lidar instruments since about
      1965, under the leadership of Edwin Eloranta, a scientist in the
      Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. The researchers and
      engineers working with him are employed by the Space Science and
      Engineering Center (SSEC). Both groups are housed in the Atmospheric,
      Oceanic and Space Sciences Building, which also houses some research
      centers in the Institute for Environmental Studies.

      The Arctic High Spectral Resolution Lidar will take measurements in the
      Arctic ice near Barrow, Alaska starting in 2005. The lidar is being
      tested in the top story of the building, beamed through a skylight.
      Images like the one below are now available on the Web where you can see
      how the lidar viewed the atmosphere on any day since the beginning of


      DigitalGlobe Acquires eMap International
      Longmont - Nov 04, 2003
      DigitalGlobe announced it has completed definitive negotiations to
      acquire eMap International (eMap), a Reddick, Fla. Based geo-spatial
      consulting practice specializing in geospatial planning, design and
      integration. EMap International will become a wholly owned subsidiary of
      DigitalGlobe with David Nale, founder, certified photogrammetrist,
      mapping scientist and professional land surveyor, serving as president.


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