The NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC) will manage ICESat-2 science data on behalf of the NASA Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 project. NSIDC will distribute and support Level 1 to 4 ICESat-2 science data.

Satellite image courtesy of Orbital Earth image illustrating AMSR-E sea ice courtesy of the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

About the Instrument

The sole instrument on ICESat-2 will be the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS). Slated for launch in 2018, the ATLAS instrument will measure ice sheet elevation change and sea ice thickness, while also generating an estimate of global vegetation biomass.

Launch Date


First Mission Data


About the Mission

The ICESat-2 mission will deploy a spaceborne sensor to collect altimetry data of the Earth's surface. ICESat-2 will continue the important observations of ice-sheet elevation change, sea-ice freeboard, and vegetation canopy height begun by ICESat in 2003.

Science Objectives

  • Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change, as well as ice-sheet linkages to climate conditions.
  • Quantifying regional patterns of ice-sheet changes to assess what drives those changes, and to improve predictive ice-sheet models.
  • Estimating sea-ice thickness to examine exchanges of energy, mass and moisture between the ice, oceans and atmosphere.
  • Measuring vegetation canopy height to help researchers estimate biomass amounts over large areas, and how the biomass is changing.
  • Enhancing the utility of other Earth-observation systems through supporting measurements.