Due for launch next spring, ESAs ice mission CryoSat marked an important milestone last week when the innovative SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL) instrument was delivered to the prime contractor Astruim GmbH for integration into the satellite.
Developed by Alcatel Space, the SIRAL radar altimeter is the key instrument to be carried on the CryoSat mission. Its design is based on heritage from existing radar altimeters but with a number of sophisticated enhancements to overcome the challenges of measuring two different kinds of ice cover. SIRAL will be able to acquire very precise measurements of the thickness of relatively thin floating sea-ice so that annual variations can be observed, and also accurately survey the surface of polar ice-sheets, which are kilometres thick, in order to detect any small changes.
CryoSat is the first Earth Explorer satellite to be launched as part of ESAs Living Planet Programme. It is now generally agreed that the Earths atmosphere is warming, however, it is very difficult to predict what effect this is having on polar ice cover. Since ice plays such an important role in the regulation of the Earths climate and sea-level height, it is crucial to determine any change in the thickness of marine and continental ice cover.
Michael Rast | alfa
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