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Feb 24, 2006

ESA Greenlights New Satellite To Study Climate Change

The European Space Agency announced today that it had received approval from its Member States to build and launch CryoSat-2. CryoSat-2 will monitor the thickness of land ice and sea ice to help explain the connection between the melting of the polar ice and the rise in sea levels and how this is contributing to climate change.

The spacecraft will use the SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), to obtain accurate measurement of ice surfaces. One of the two antennas will send out radar signals, while both antennas then detect signal echoes from the Earth's surface. By knowing the position of the spacecraft to a very high accuracy – achieved with an onboard ranging instrument called a Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) receiver supplemented by a laser retro-reflector system – the signal return time will reveal the surface altitude.

CryoSat 2 will replace the original CryoSat spacecraft which was destroyed during its October 8, 2005 launch when its rocket malfunctioned.