Molex Polymicro Technologies optical fibre onboard ICESat-2

Molex has announced that its Polymicro Technologies optical fibre is being used to build NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2). The satellite, slated for launch in 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will measure changes in Earth features, from melting ice sheets and thinning sea ice to growing trees.


The specialty optical fibre from Molex will be used on board ICESat-2 and in Ground Support Equipment (GSE) assemblies that enable integration and testing. The custom fibres are composed of high OH glass/glass fibre, including a glass core, glass cladding layer, acrylate buffer and a protective Nylon outer jacket.


“We are extremely proud to be a part of this vital NASA project and look forward to continued collaboration on future projects,” said Gary MacDonald, technical sales supervisor, Molex. “Molex has an ongoing relationship with NASA Goddard and our optical fibre is currently in use on the Mars Rover Curiosity as well. We consider it an honour and a privilege to have been chosen to supply our custom fibre on such a remarkable venture.”


ICESat-2’s photon-counting laser altimeter will measure the round trip time of individual laser photons reflecting off the ground and returning to the satellite’s receiver telescopes at a rate of 10,000 laser pulses per second. By matching those times with the satellite’s precise location in space, the mission will determine the elevation of features on Earth.


Earth’s warming climate is shrinking sea ice and melting land ice at the poles and in mountain glaciers, raising sea levels. ICESat-2’s ability to precisely measure elevation will allow scientists to see where ice is flowing, melting or growing and to investigate the global impacts of these changes. It will build on key elevation observations of the cryosphere begun by the original ICESat satellite (2003 to 2009) and the Operation IceBridge airborne campaign (2009 to the present) to provide a continuous record of changes occurring in the 21st century. The 3,483-pound ICESat-2 will have a design life of three years and enough fuel to operate for seven years.

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