Airbus Defence and Space

CryoSat: the satellite with an icy mission

The CryoSat environmental and climate monitoring satellite is one of the Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions of the European Space Agency’s Living Planet programme.

Cryosat 2 Mission

This science-driven programme aims to provide critical data to address pressing environmental questions. It involves Core Missions, comprising relatively complex and innovative Earth observation satellites, and Opportunity Missions, using more mature technology, thus allowing speedier implementation.

A radar altimetry mission dedicated to the observation of the polar regions, CryoSat is studying possible climate variations and trends by measuring changes in the thickness of ice sheets and polar ocean sea-ice cover (which play a significant role in the global climate) for at least three years with unprecedented accuracy, providing researchers with previously unavailable data from these uninhabited regions.

After a launcher malfunction unfortunately resulted in the total loss of the initial CryoSat satellite in the autumn of 2005, ESA decided to rebuild the satellite. CryoSat-2 was launched on 8 April 2010 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) on board a Dnepr launcher. It successfully completed its commissioning phase and is now returning data for the scientific community to study.

As for the original CryoSat satellite, Airbus Defence and Space was prime contractor to ESA for CryoSat-2, responsible for the satellite platform and integration of all instruments.

Cryosat-2 Satellite

Photos above: © ESA


Fact Sheet

Customer European Space Agency
Mission Determine fluctuations in the mass of the Earth’s major land and marine ice fields
  • Low Earth-orbit, non-Sun-synchronous
  • Altitude: 724km
  • Inclination: 92˚
  • Aluminium-sandwich structure with two gallium arsenide body mounted solar arrays, nominally delivering 800W each
  • 78Ah Lithium ion battery
  • Pointing error: < 0,1˚
  • Stability < 0,001˚/s
  • SIRAL (SAR Interferometric Radar Altimeter)
  • DORIS (Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite)
  • LRR (Laser Retro Reflector)
Features Power: 400W (nominal) - 800W peak
Launch Mass 720kg
Dimensions 4.6m long, 2.34m wide
Launch Date June 2010 on DNEPR-1 rocket from Baikonur
Mission Duration Six months of commissioning followed by a three-year operational mission
Airbus Defence and Space Responsibilities
  • Prime Contractor
  • Spacecraft Integration and Testing
  • MMFU (Mass Memory and Formatting Unit)
  • PCDU (Power Conditioning and Distribution Unit)


Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

Cryosat-2, mission blog