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Fibertek Lasers Pave the Way for the Next Generation of Earth Observation

Sept. 17, 2018

The successful launch of NASA's ICESat-2 satellite carries with it Fibertek's state-of-the-art space-qualified laser systems that are used to measure the height of the Earth for changes as little as the width of a pencil.

The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, will measure the height of a changing Earth, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second. Over the course of the 3-year mission, Fibertek's laser will generate over 1 Trillion laser pulses, several hundred times more than any other space laser flown by NASA.

ICESat-2 will help scientists investigate why, and how much, our planet's frozen and icy areas are changing in a warming climate. The satellite will also measure heights across Earth's temperate and tropical regions, and take stock of the vegetation in forests worldwide. Laser pulses generated by Fibertek's lasers travel from the satellite to the Earth and back to the satellite and the precise distance is calculated based on the round-trip time of individual photons in the light pulses. "Using the individual photons to measure surface elevation is a really new thing," said Ron Kwok, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's never been done from orbiting satellites, and it hasn't really been done much with airborne instruments either."

"Fibertek made significant advances in space-qualified laser technology enabling the next generation of Earth observations," said Nicholas Sawruk, Director of Laser & Optical Engineering at Fibertek. "We are honored to support NASA's ICESat-2 mission and are looking forward to a successful mission." The ICESat-2 lasers are Fibertek's 9th and 10th lasers to fly in space.


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