Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Russian Dnepr to Launch Cryosat 2 Ice Mission

A new earth observation satellite built to collect data on the earth's polar ice caps is scheduled to lift-off from a Russian launch site on Thursday on a multi-year mission.

The International Space Company's Kosmotros Dnepr (RS-20) rocket is scheduled to launch the European Space Agency's Cryosat 2 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on April 8th at 9:57 am EDT (1357 GMT).

The Dnepr launch vehicle is a three stage modified ICBM, which measures 34 meters tall and three meters wide.

From an age dating back to the cold war, the Dnepr is launched from a silo well deep inside the earth known as the Transport and Launch Canister. The rocket is ejected up and out using steam and black powder hot gases.

Once Dnepr's main engine's clear the earth's surface, it's liquid fueled main engines are ignited and begins the rocket's climb eastward out over the desert region.

The Cryosat 2 is a replacement mission for the lost Cryosat 1 which never achieved orbit due to a Rockot upper stage launch failure in October 2005.

"As we lost the original CryoSat just 300 seconds after liftoff, you can well imagine how anxiously we are all waiting to get CryoSat-2 successfully into orbit," ESA's CryoSat-2 Project Manager Richard Francis stated to this reporter.

This new satellite will feature enhanced high resolution cameras which will focus on the depth's and trends of the ice located at the poles.

The 1,584 pound spacecraft's primary instrument will be the SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter or SIRAL, and will use multiple radar beams to give the data a more 3-D view of the ice sheets to determine the thickness of floating sea ice.

Orbiting the earth at an inclination of 92.1 degrees, ESA's ice mission will orbit from an altitude of 445 miles as it transmits data through the ground station in Salmijärvi, Sweden, to ESA's Centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy.

Cryosat 2's exact position will be determined via a radio known as the Doppler Orbit and Radio Positioning Integration by Satellite or DORIS.

There are several more Dnepr launches planned for 2010 following a six week delay in launching this mission, including a multi-satellite launch this autumn.

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