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MISSIONS

Explore the European Space Agency's Earth Observation satellite missions. Learn all about ESA's dedicated Earth Explorers or collaborations with otheragencies through the Third Party Missions programme.

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  • Mission - Earth Explorers

    Mission - Earth Explorers

    CryoSat

    CryoSat determines variations in the thickness of continental ice sheets and marine ice cover. Europe's first ice mission is an advanced radar altimeter specifically designed to monitor the most dynamic sections of Earth's cryosphere.

  • Mission - Earth Explorers

    Mission - Earth Explorers

    CRYO2ICE

    About CRYO2ICE CRYO2ICE campaign - A small change can lead to a revolution In 2020, ESA changed the orbit of its CryoSat-2 satellite to periodically align with NASA's ICESat-2. This provided radar and lidar measurements of the same ice, at nearly the same time. The campaign, dubbed #CRYO2ICE, was the first of its kind. The data resulting from the campaign will allow scientists to measure snow depth from space on both sea and land, improving the accuracy of sea ice thickness measurements and ice-sheet elevation time series. The measurements will also help map snow over the poles and advance our understanding of currents in polar oceans, with further applications expected in the study of inland waters and the atmosphere. The orbit of the CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 satellites is naturally growing closing together over time, resulting in shorter times between observations of the same area. This unprecedented period of overlap between the two satellites allows the CRYO2ICE campaign to continue acquiring data from the near-synchronous satellites. In June 2022, the orbit of CryoSat-2 changed again, to maximise the number of coincident orbits between the two satellites over the Antarctic. Facts and Figures Full name: CryoSat-2/ICESat-2 Resonance Campaign Collaboration between: ESA and NASA Objectives: Through a small orbit change, CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 passed over the same areas nearly simultaneously, providing radar and lidar measurements of the same ice. Scientific impact: The resulting measurements will allow scientists to calculate snow depth from space on both sea and land, improving the accuracy of sea ice thickness measurements and ice-sheet elevation time series. The new data will also help map snow over the poles and advance our understanding of currents in polar oceans and is expected to have further applications in the study of inland waters and the atmosphere. Campaign start date: 16 July 2020 Orbit change: Approximately 900 metres Who: ESA's Flight Dynamics team and Mission Control at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, planned and executed the manoeuvres with support from the ESA Space Debris Office (SDO) and the Payload Data Ground Segment (PDGS). Instrument impact: CryoSat-2's SAR Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL) was put in standby for a few hours before and during manoeuvres. It did not significantly impact CryoSat-2 overall data collection. CryoSat-2/ICESat-2 Resonance: CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 passed over coincident polar areas at approximately the same time every 19 orbits, roughly every 31 hours. CRYO2ICE Infographic Download the infographic Resources Find additional information about the CRYO2ICE campaign through mission documentation, presentations and technical papers. Download introduction to CryoSat-2 ICESat-2 Resonant Orbits presentation Find up-to-date information about the status of CryoSat SIRAL data: Download CryoSat Orbit Raising Campaign QA4EO Data Quality Control Summary Details about all periods of planned and unplanned unavailability of SIRAL data Daily data quality results available in CryoSat Daily Performance Reports Visualise and download the CryoSat-2/ICESat-2 spatial intersections for a given time window with the CRYO2ICE Coincident Observations Explorer. Articles Articles about the CRYO2ICE campaign: CRYO2ICE Orbit Raising Campaign: Data Quality Status SIRAL measurements continue during CRYO2ICE Feature story on BBC Science about the mission and its scientific objectives A closer look at Cryo2Ice manoeuvres CRYO2ICE over Antarctica: revealing further insight on changing ice

  • Mission - Earth Explorers

    Mission - Earth Explorers

    CryoSat Objectives

    CryoSat Objectives Antarctica in 3D The aim of the CryoSat mission is to determine variations in the thickness of the Earth's continental ice sheets and marine ice cover. Its primary objective is to test the prediction that Arctic sea ice is thinning due to global warming. In addition, it was important to discover the extent to which the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are contributing to global sea level rise. To achieve these goals, CryoSat will primarily: determine regional trends in Arctic perennial sea-ice thickness and mass determine the contribution that the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are making to mean global rise in sea level. CryoSat's secondary goals are to observe: the seasonal cycle and inter-annual variability of Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice mass and thickness the variation in the thickness of the Earth's ice caps and glaciers. Measurement goals The following science and measurement requirements had been defined (for typical spatial scales) to be observed over different targets: Sea Ice 105 km2 Ice Sheets 104 km2 Ice Sheets 13.8 - 106 km2 Minimum Latitude 50° 72° 63° SIRAL Mode SAR SARIn/LRM SARIn/LRM Requirement 3.5 cm/yr 8.3 cm/yr 1.0 cm/yr (130 Gt/y Measured 3.0 cm/yr1 4.8 cm/yr2 0.2 cm/yr3 Extended Mission Objectives After eight years of successful operations, CryoSat achieved its primary mission objectives for the cryosphere and has demonstrated a number of innovative methods that opened new observing possibilities and scientific streams in other domains. Due to its success, the mission operations were extended to 2021, and a new set of objectives were defined. CryoSat is the first satellite to demonstrate the following: evidence of the advanced performance of SAR mode altimetry over the ocean (leading to Copernicus Sentinel-3 operating globally in SAR mode) coastal altimetry at high resolution across-track interferometric (swath) processing This has stimulated new scientific questions that require attention from the worldwide satellite and research organisations. The key arguments for extending the mission is to sustain the time series of a unique climate record of the full cryosphere and to present attractive scientific and technical goals that take into consideration a continuous dialogue with the scientific community and new open questions which have emerged from the previous phases. Although the objectives focus on what can be achieved in two years, they project into a long-term vision and into broader goals. Science Almost 80% of the Earth's fresh water is locked up in the cryosphere, i.e. snow, ice and permafrost. The cryosphere plays an important role in moderating the global climate - and as such, the consequences of receding ice cover due to global warming are far reaching and complex. Due to its high albedo, ice masses directly affect the global energy budget by reflecting about 80% of incident sunlight back out to space. Thus, once formed, ice tends to be maintained. However, if ice cover were to decrease, less solar radiation would be reflected away from the surface of the Earth – causing the ice to absorb more heat and consequently melt faster still. Around the North Pole, an area of sea ice the size of Europe melts away every summer and then freezes again during the winter. The thickness of Arctic sea ice plays a central role in polar climate as it moderates heat exchange by insulating the ocean from the cold polar atmosphere. A decrease in sea ice could disturb ocean circulation in patterns in the North Atlantic As sea ice forms, the salinity and therefore the density of the upper ocean increase. The density increase causes the surface waters to sink – in essence acting as a pump, driving cold, deep ocean currents from the polar regions towards the Equator. A reduction in Arctic sea ice could significantly disrupt the Gulf Stream which transports warm surface waters northwards from the Gulf of Mexico to the sub-polar waters east of Greenland. It is thanks to the Gulf Stream that north-west Europe currently enjoys annual temperatures of about 9° C higher than average for the latitude. As well as influencing how much sunlight is reflected back to space, continental ice has an impact on sea level. The large ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland amount to about 28 million km3, which means that sea level is about 65 m lower than it would be if these ice sheets did not exist. Whilst evidence suggests that these ice sheets are relatively stable, there are indications that rapid changes are occurring around their margins. CryoSat is dedicated to monitoring very precise changes in the elevation and thickness of polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. The observations that CryoSat makes is used to determine whether or not our ice masses are thinning due to global warming. Learn more about recent findings from CryoSat mapping ice loss in Patagonia:

  • Mission - Earth Explorers

    Mission - Earth Explorers

    CryoSat Data

    Access is provided to all CryoSat systematic data acquired according to the current geographical mode mask

  • Mission - Earth Explorers

    Mission - Earth Explorers

    CryoSat Overview

    CryoSat instruments and it is generated at the beginning of every orbital repetition cycle around two months before the current file exp...