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Ice, Cloud and land Elevation satellite, also called EOS Laser ALT-1


Designation 27642 / 03002A
Launch date 13 Jan 2003
Country of origin United States
Mission Remote sensing
Perigee/Apogee 590 km
Inclination 94°
Launch vehicle Delta #294

Total cost of the mission is below $200 including the satellite, its launch and 3 years of operation.

Icesat is part of NASA's Earth science program and was originally EOS Laser ALT-1. It carries the GLAS, a 1-meter telescope with a laser for lidar observations of the Earth and in particular the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets.

The first (primary) laser failed after 36 days of usage because of a design flaw. Service was resumed with the use of the second of its 3 lasers.

End of life

Out of service Jan 2010
Cause Altimeters ceased emitting light on 11 Oct 2009
Decay 30 Aug 2010

External resources

sat-index articles



Technical data


Prime contractor Ball Aerospace
Platform BCP-2000
Mass at launch 970 kg
Mass in orbit  
Payload mass 298 kg
Solar array  
Stabilization 3-axis
DC power 730 W
Design lifetime 5 years

Carries the GLAS (Geoscience Laser Altimeter System) instrument. It will monitor the ice blanket of the poles. GLAS transmits four-nanosecond-wide pulses, one at 1,064 nm and another at 532 nm wavelengths, at a rate of 40 pulses/s. The infrared pulses are reflected from the ice surfaces, and the green line pulses from the atmosphere. The reflected pulses are collected by an 80 cm diameter telescope.

56 Gbit onboard storage. GPS receiver.

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