The European Space Agency’s (ESA) ice mission satellite will lift off on 28 February 2010 instead of the scheduled December 2009 date due to lack of launch opportunities.

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 features an innovative radar altimeter called the synthetic aperture interferometric radar altimeter-2 (SIRAL-2) that can measure the thickness of thin sea ice as well as the surface of ice sheets.

The Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan that will host the satellite lift-off is particularly busy at the moment and hence there is limited availability of facilities causing the delay.

ESA’s project manager for CryoSat Richard Francis said that naturally the agency is disappointed at this further delay.

“The satellite has already spent over six months in storage waiting for a launch opportunity,” Francis said.

CryoSat is the third of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions after GOCE gravity mission that launched in March 2009 and the SMOS water mission that is preparing for blast-off on 2 November 2009.

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The 720kg ice mission satellite has recently completed a series of tests to demonstrate its launch readiness.