[Text Source: NASA Science Mission Directorate, http://science.nasa.gov/missions/icesat-ii/
ICESat (Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite) is the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for ... measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. The ICESat mission is providing multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds which are common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
As envisioned by the Decadal Study, the ICESat-2 mission is to deploy an ICESat follow-on satellite to continue the assessment of polar ice changes. ICESat-2 is also expected to measure vegetation canopy heights, allowing estimates of biomass and carbon in above ground vegetation in conjunction with related missions, and allow measurements of solid earth properties. ICESat-2 is expected to launch in 2016.