ICESat-2 (Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2), which launched Saturday from NASA's base in California, will be able to measure the height of features on Earth, helping scientists to track patterns such as melting glaciers.
The satellite's powerful lasers will send 10,000 pulses per second down to the surface of the Earth. Based on the time it takes for the pulses to return to the satellite, scientists will be able to calculate the height of ice sheets, glaciers and vegetation.
A similar satellite, ICESat, was in operation between 2003 and 2010.
ICESat-2 was launched with the last-ever Delta II rocket - in operation since 1989. The rocket has launched more than 150 times with a success rate of 98.7 per cent, according to NASA.
Delta II rockets have been used for missions including the Phoenix Mars Lander, plus all operational GPS missions, as well as commercial missions.