The ground segment for ESA’s ice mission satellite CryoSat-2 has been declared ready for launch.

CryoSat-2 will measure the rates of disappearing ice cover on earth by measuring the exact rate of change in the thickness of ice floating in the oceans and ice sheets on land.

The satellite will carry an innovative radar altimeter called the Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter-2 (SIRAL-2), used to measure the thickness of thin sea ice as well as the surface of ice sheets that are kilometres thick.

CryoSat-2 replaces the original CryoSat satellite that was lost due to a failure in the timing of the launch sequence in October 2005.

Although CryoSat-2 is a rebuild, its ground segment has been completely redesigned to account for enhancements made to the new satellite, specifically since CryoSat-2 will carry a backup core instrument, according to an ESA release.

The ground segment features a flight operations segment for controlling and monitoring the satellite and a payload data ground segment, for receiving, processing, archiving and distributing data to users.

ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, will control and monitor the satellite through the ESA/ESTRACK ground station in northern Sweden.

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The data received by the ground station will be processed under the control of ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy for final delivery to users.

The CryoSat-2 will be the third earth explorer satellite to be launched during 2009 in December after the GOCE mission and the SMOS mission satellites.