Airbus Defence and Space

First ice mission data

CryoSat-2, launched on 8 April, is performing exceptionally well

A mere three days after its launch from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) on 8 April, the Airbus Defence and Space-built CryoSat-2 satellite got down to the job it was designed for – collecting data on the Earth’s ice-bound polar regions.

Following what was termed by the European Space Agency’s Flight Director Pier Paolo Emanuelli as ‘a very smooth entry into orbit’, the satellite’s principal instrument, the Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), was activated on 11 April, with the very first data (of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica) acquired at 16.40 CEST (14.40 UTC), downloaded and processed at ESA’s ground station in Kiruna, Sweden. CryoSat’s Lead Investigator, Professor Duncan Wingham, hailed this as an excellent result and a tribute to the hard work of the entire CryoSat community.

Now that the LEOP (Launch and Early Operations Phase) – those critical first few days in orbit with their nail-biting round-the-clock monitoring – has been declared over, CryoSat-2 begins a lengthier commissioning phase during which all the satellite’s on-board systems, together with the ground systems, will be optimised to ensure the very best data.