The new polar altimetry mission

In 2019, European Space Agency (ESA) has completed Phase A/B1 preparatory study of the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topographic high priority candidate mission. From 2020, the development of the CRISTAL mission will continue.

The mission, originally named PICE (Polar ICE and Snow Topographic Mission) and now Copernicus polaR Ice and Snow Topography ALtimeter (CRISTAL), aims at measuring and monitoring sea-ice thickness and overlying snow depth in Arctic and Southern Ocean, as well as changes in surface elevation in glaciers, ice caps, and the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets by means of its radar altimeter.

While measurements of sea-ice thickness would support maritime operations in polar oceans and, in the longer term would help in the planning of activities in the polar regions, monitoring changes in ice sheets helps to track the stability of the ice sheets and its impact in sea-level rise, which is essential to fully assess, predict and adapt to climate variability and change.

The Interferometric Radar Altimeter for Ice and Snow (IRIS) processors include Fully Focussed and Swath processing capabilities in addition to the classical Delay Doppler Processing and Low Resolution methods.

During the phase A/B1 of the mission, isardSAT was responsible for the definition, implementation and validation of the L1/L2A Ground Processor Prototype. During the phases B2, C and D, isardSAT is responsible for the System and Instrument Retrieval Simulator and Ground Processor Prototype.


Airbus, isardSAT, ARESYS



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algorithm development, altimetry, snow / ice, satellites