CryoSat-2 is a European Space Agency environmental research satellite which was launched in April 2010. It provides scientists with data about the polar ice caps and tracks changes in the thickness of the ice with a resolution of about 1.3 centimetres (1⁄2 in).
CryoSat-2 was built as a replacement for CryoSat-1, whose Rokot carrier rocket was unable to achieve orbit, resulting in the loss of the satellite. Compared to its predecessor, CryoSat-2 features software upgrades, greater battery capacity and an updated instrument package. Its main instrument is an interferometric radar range-finder with twin antennas, which measures the height difference between the upper surface of floating ice and surrounding water. This is often known as 'free-board'.
CryoSat-2 is operated as part of the CryoSat programme to study the Earth's polar ice caps, which is itself part of the Living Planet programme. The CryoSat-2 spacecraft was constructed by EADS Astrium, and was launched by ISC Kosmotras, using a Dnepr carrier rocket, on 8 April 2010. On 22 October 2010, CryoSat-2 was declared operational following six months of on-orbit testing.
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