Officials at the European Space Agency (ESA) announce that the recently-launched Cryosat-2 satellite managed to deliver its first dataset, just three months after being delivered to Earth's orbit. The achievement is a testament to the dedication and hard work of ESA engineers and mission controllers, who worked around the clock to rush the spacecraft through the testing and commissioning phases of its mission. The first batches of data have now been distributed to selected science teams around the world, for additional refining and interpretation.
“This is the first release of CryoSat data to users outside our project team, and notably early for a mission of this type. Working around the clock, we have been very busy maneuvering the satellite into the correct orbit and resolving a few bugs in the processors to reach this milestone. We are now entering the final part of the commissioning phase, where the calibration and validation team play an important role by carefully checking the CryoSat data products before they are released to the scientific community,” Tommaso Parrinello, the ESA CryoSat-2 Mission Manager, explains.
According to the official, the new information have been delivered to about 150 experts, located at 40 research institutes and universities around the world. The goal of this stage in the process is to eliminate all doubts regarding the accuracy of the Cryosat-2 readings. In addition to the research groups browsing through the info, other data-testing mechanisms also include a network of ground-based sensors, which help scientists determine whether the instruments aboard the satellite are off in their measurements, and if so, by how much.
“We have already undertaken several campaigns in the polar regions prior to the launch of CryoSat-2 to help prepare the mission. However, the next campaign will be particularly exciting as it'll be the first opportunity we have to make a direct comparison between the satellite data and airborne measurements. A welcome contribution of note is coming through collaboration between ESA and NASA. In the autumn, NASA will use one of its DC-8 aircraft to collect ice measurements in the Antarctic as CryoSat-2 orbits above,” CryoSat-2 Validation Manager Malcolm Davidson adds.
The main goal of the Cryosat-2 mission is to measure the evolution of Earth's polar caps with extreme accuracy. These measurements are of vital importance for informing policymakers in their initiatives to mitigate global warming and climate change. The spacecraft is capable of taking centimeter-resolution readings of the ices, showing when and where they are melting, and where they're growing. Officials at ESA say that, once the commissioning and testing phases are done, the satellite will enter its observations stage, which will last for about three years.