About the ICESat-2 Launch Window

Artist's image of NASA's ICESat-2 spacecraft above Earth.
The ICESat-2 mission will measure the changing height of Earth’s glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses per second. Image credit: NASA

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, is scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 15, at 5:46 a.m. PDT (8:46 a.m. EDT). There is a 40-minute launch opportunity within the spacecraft launch window, which extends for 2 hours, 34 minutes. The 40-minute window is determined by super-cold liquid oxygen temperature (cryogenic propellant) effects on the Delta II rocket. The team is targeting the earliest opportunity within the spacecraft window, which could shift based on launch operations.

Launch Week Arrives for ICESat-2

Artist's image of NASA's ICESat-2 spacecraft above Earth.
The ICESat-2 mission will measure the changing height of Earth’s glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses per second. Image credit: NASA

NASA and United Launch Alliance launch and mission partners are gathered at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the final week of final prelaunch activities for the agency’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2. The three-year mission is scheduled to launch at 8:46 a.m. EDT (5:46 a.m. PDT) on Saturday, Sept. 15, with liftoff aboard a ULA Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 (SLC-2).

Launch of the ICESat-2 spacecraft also will mark the final flight of the Delta II, which has served as a workhorse for NASA, the U.S. military and other customers since its 1989 debut.

Several significant prelaunch milestones are complete. The ICESat-2 spacecraft has been transported from the Astrotech payload processing facility to SLC-2, where it has since been lifted, mated atop the rocket, and encapsulated inside the payload fairing that will protect it during the first minutes of flight.

Tune in Thursday for the prelaunch briefing at 4 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. PDT) on NASA TV, and be sure to join us here on NASA’s Launch Blog or on NASA TV for countdown coverage beginning Saturday at 8:10 a.m. EDT (5:10 a.m. PDT).

Delta II Comes Together Ahead of ICESat-2 Launch

This expanded-view graphic depicts the components of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket that will launch NASA's ICESat-2 spacecraft.
This expanded-view graphic depicts the components of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket that will launch NASA’s ICESat-2 spacecraft. Image credit: United Launch Alliance
The United Launch Alliance Delta II first stage is lifted up in the mobile service tower.
The United Launch Alliance Delta II first stage is lifted up in the mobile service tower at Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: USAF 30th Space Wing/Pedro Carrillo

The United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket slated to launch NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, has made significant progress toward liftoff, planned for Sept. 12. Prelaunch preparations are well underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where the rocket is coming together at Space Launch Complex 2. Earlier this month the booster, or first stage, was lifted into place in the complex’s mobile service tower, followed by installation of the rocket’s four solid rocket motors, as well as the interstage, a connector that adjoins the first and second stages. The rocket’s second stage was lifted and installed atop the booster on Thursday, June 21.

The ICESat-2 spacecraft arrived at Vandenberg on June 12 and is undergoing its own processing activities inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages development of the ICESat-2 mission, including mission systems engineering and mission operations on behalf of the agency’s Earth Science Division. The ICESat-2 spacecraft was built and tested by Northrop Grumman in Gilbert, Arizona. The satellite will carry a single instrument called the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS, built and tested at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is providing the Delta II launch service. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management.