Fire and Ice — Delta II Polar Orbit Double Shot

Ten years ago today — January 12, 2003 — a Delta II rocket launched from Vandenberg AFB carrying two very different spacecraft.


(A representation of ICESAT’s orbit and its measurement of ice sheet thickness. NASA image.)

On the “fire” side, CHIPS — the Cosmic Hot Interstellar Spectrometer — was an astrophysics spacecraft sent up to study the plasma in the “local interstellar bubble.” It primarily looked at “hot and diffuse nebulae at about a million degrees temperature.”

CHIPS rode into space with ICESAT, the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite. ICESAT carried the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System to measure the thickness of ice sheets.

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