August 2015 – FIBERTEK, Inc. has announced the successful delivery of the two flight lasers for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) Earth Observing System Mission to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The ICESat-2 program is NASA’s flagship earth science altimetry lidar, used to measure ice sheet elevation change and sea ice thickness, while also generating an estimate of global vegetation biomass. The Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) is the lone instrument on the ICESat-2 mission. In addition to delivering the two flight lasers, FIBERTEK also delivered key electronic components on the ATLAS instrument.

ICESat-2, slated for launch in 2017, will continue the important observations of ice-sheet elevation change, sea-ice freeboard and vegetation canopy height begun by ICESat in 2003. Together, these data sets will allow for continent-wide estimates in the change in volume of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over a 15-year period as well as long-term trend analysis of sea-ice thickness.

FIBERTEK was responsible for the ATLAS laser design, development, fabrication and test. The ATLAS lasers output a visible, green, laser pulse 10,000 times per second. Each laser pulse is approximately one billionth of a second long and contains more than a milijoule of energy. The lasers are expected to operate continuously for the three-year mission life, firing over one trillion laser pulses. The laser performance requirements and long lifetime represents a significant increase in complexity and reliability compared to previous space-based laser systems.

The demanding laser requirements are a result of the differences between the original ICESat launched in 2003 and ICESat-2. The latter will use a micro-pulse, multi-beam approach. This will provide a dense cross-track sampling to help scientists determine a surface’s slope with each pass of the satellite. The sensor will have a high pulse-repetition rate of 10 kHz, to allow the satellite to take measurements every 70 cm along the track. These instrument features will improve the elevation estimates in sloped areas, as well as rough land surfaces such as crevasses.

“Once in orbit, ICESat-2 will go from basking in the heat of the sun to freezing in Earth’s shadow every 90 minutes,” said NASA Project Manager Doug McLennan. “And every second in that orbit, it will need to take thousands of precise measurements of the height of the surface below.”

“FIBERTEK is proud of our accomplishment of delivering state-of-the-art, high-reliability laser systems months before the scheduled laser integration onto ATLAS,” said Guy Beaghler, FIBERTEK’s President and CEO. “FIBERTEK is looking forward to the next mission.”

More information about the NASA ICESat-2 mission