Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface. It forms in both the Arctic and the Antarctic in each hemisphere’s winter.
The ICESat-2 laser will pulse 10,000 times a second; each pulse will release about 20 trillion photons. Only about a dozen photons hit Earth’s surface and return to the satellite.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet extends almost 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), roughly the area of the contiguous United States and Mexico combined.
ICESat-2's laser wavelength is 532 nanometers - a bright shade of green.
ICESat-2's solid-state data recorder will store at least 580 gigabits of data a day. That's enough to store 26 hours of HD video.
The North Pole is frozen sea ice surrounded by land.
The South Pole is ice-covered land, surrounded by ocean.
If it flew over a football field, the first ICESat would have taken a measurement outside each end zone; ICESat-2 would take measurements within each yard line.
The cryosphere includes sea ice, ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers, permafrost and more.
ICESat-2's data will be downloaded to ground stations in Svalbard, Norway, and Wallops Island, Virginia, about once every two orbits using a 220 megabit X-band downlink connection...about 10 times faster than your cable internet connection.
ICESat-2's onboard systems are capable of calculating the satellite's position within 16 feet (5 meters).
ICESat-2's orbital path will repeat every 91 days. This means that ICESat-2 will measure a grid of the entire Earth every 3 months.
ICESat-2 flies at 4.3 miles per second, relative to the ground. That's longer than 70 football fields, put end-to-end, in one second.
Each solar panel on ICESat-2's panel array is capable of generating an average of 1320 Watts. That's enough to power 22 60-Watt light bulbs.