National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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ICESat-2: Applications

ICESat-2: Applications


ICESat-2 footprints

Figure 1. Multiple beam measurement acquisition strategy for ICESat-2 will increase the density of measurements compared with ICESat and will enable calculation of slope which is of interest to the land ice community, among others.

In 2007, the National Research Council released the first Decadal Survey for Earth Science. The Decadal Survey outlined research prerogatives and initiatives of national importance for the next decade and identified development of applications of satellite data as a priority for all future missions. The Applied Sciences division responded to this by identifying applications leads for all Tier 1 Decadal Survey missions, such as the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission. ICESat-2 is a space-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) mission designed to measure changes in ice sheet elevation, sea ice freeboard, and vegetation height.

The overall goal of the ICESat-2 applications program is to engage stakeholders and potential users of ICESat-2 data to ensure that the product suite and delivery mechanisms maximize the usefulness of the data. The applications team coordinates between the ICESat-2 Science Definition Team (SDT) and the Community of Practice and helps to develop the Community of Potential during the pre-launch phases of the mission and continues through the operational phases of the mission while ICESat-2 is producing data.

What is an application?

The overarching purpose of the NASA Applied Sciences Program is to discover and demonstrate innovative uses and practical benefits of NASA Earth science data, scientific knowledge, and technology. An application is defined as:

Innovative uses of mission data products in decision-making activities for societal benefit

This takes the product beyond the generation and provision of the data and expands into areas where it is actively being used to affect some change in policy or societally-relevant decision process. For example, measurements of reservoir height can indicate the potential for flooding or drought and this information can be used by local governments to regulate water usage.

What does an Application Program do for ICESat-2?

The ICESat-2 Application Program is designed to connect science to society. An Applications Team was formed to develop and facilitate the efforts of the ICESat-2 program in 2011. The Team operates under the direction of the ICESat-2 Project Scientist. The ICESat-2 Applications Plan describes the strategic goals for the team. Specific activities for the applications efforts include:

  • Host interactive workshops, focus sessions and tutorials to engage the community of practice and potential.
    Go to Events and Activities page
  • Establish an Applications Working Group to expand applications outreach.
    Go to Team page
  • Establish an Early Adopter program to demonstrate societally relevant applications to proposed data products.
    Go to Early Adopter page
  • Develop cross mission activities to establish connections between the ICESat-2 community and other NASA missions communities through Application Tutorials.
    Go to Events and Activities page


Feedback loops are a fundamental and highly valued component of the ICESat-2 Application Program effort. The applications team seeks feedback and participation from the community. We encourage you to get involved in mission applications by attending an applications event, contacting one of the team members, or joining our online email listserv to stay informed about future activities. You can also provide us with feedback by emailing us at: We look forward to hearing from you!

Applications News

 Submission deadline for the 5th call of Early Adopters is February 29, 2016. Read more here.

 Join us for the ICESat-2 Inland Water Focus Session on November 18, 2015. Read more here.

 Join us at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. Read more here.

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