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Operation IceBridge

Operation IceBridge mission graphic

Phase: Operating

First Flight: October 15, 2009

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Larsen Ice Shelf
Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf, viewed from NASA's DC-8 aircraft in 2004, is one target of the 2009 Operation: Ice Bridge Antarctica campaign. Credit: NASA/Jim Ross

Operation IceBridge is a NASA airborne mission making altimetry, radar, and other geophysical measurements to monitor and characterize the Earth’s cryosphere. Its primary goal is to extend the record of ice altimetry begun by NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). The IceBridge mission began operation in 2009 and will continue until the launch of ICESat-2, currently estimated for early 2016. The primary instruments are a range of lidars—including an ICESat-2, style photon counting lidar--used to survey the major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, sea ice in the Arctic and Southern Ocean, and glaciers and icecaps in Alaska and Canada that are significant contributors to sea level rise. IceBridge is also serving in a calibration/validation role to improve the utility of ICESat measurements and link them to ESA’s recently launched CryoSat-2. IceBridge also fully exploits the survey aircraft make additional measurements critical to understanding ice dynamics. These include snow and bed mapping radars, gravimeters, cameras and other instruments. IceBridge currently conducts one Arctic and one Antarctic campaign each year. At present, IceBridge relies on piloted aircraft from NASA and academic sources to maximize altimetry data collection and optimize other instrument deployments. IceBridge will utilize altimetry instruments being developed for unpiloted aerial systems as soon as they are available, which is estimated to be 2013.

All of the data collected by Operation IceBridge are treated as mission data with no period of exclusive use. They are made publicly available as quickly as possible through NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Center at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

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  • Arctic Sea Ice Flights Near Completion
  • NASA Flies to Antarctica for Largest Airborne Polar Ice Survey
  • NASA Ice Campaign Takes Flight in Antarctica

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