NASA and USGS launch Landsat 9
Powered by an Atlas V 401 rocket, Landsat 9 took off from Vandenberg space base on September 27, 2021. The satellite will extend a record five decades of Earth observations.
Since 1972, eight Landsat satellites have been put into orbit (including today’s launch and excluding Landsat 6, which failed during launch). This joint effort between NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) has provided an unprecedented and almost continuous visual recording of landscapes, glacial landscapes and coastal waters. Landsat satellites have collected over 9 million scenes and triggered over 18,000 research papers.
At 11:12 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:12 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), a United Launch Alliance rocket lifted off the California coast and headed into the satellite’s near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit. The animation below shows the rocket plume hovering above the marine cloud layer at around 11:14 a.m. PT; the images were captured by the GOES-17 weather satellite (band 2 / red) at a rate of one image per minute. GOES-17 is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); NASA is helping to develop and launch the GOES series of satellites.
The Norwegian Svalbard satellite monitoring ground station acquired the Landsat 9 signals approximately 80 minutes after launch. The satellite was performing as expected as it climbed to its final altitude of 705 kilometers (438 miles), the same as its sister satellite, Landsat 8. Working in tandem, the two satellites will collect images covering the entire planet every eight days. .
“The Landsat mission is unlike any other,” said Karen St. Germain, director of the Earth Sciences division at NASA. “For nearly 50 years, Landsat satellites have observed our home planet, providing an unprecedented record of how its surface has changed over time, from days to decades. Through this partnership with the USGS, we have been able to provide continuous and timely data to users ranging from farmers to resource managers and scientists. This data can help us understand, predict and plan for the future in a changing climate.
The instruments onboard Landsat 9 – the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) – will measure 11 wavelengths of light reflected or radiated from the Earth’s surface in the visible spectrum, as well as other wavelengths beyond what our eyes can detect. On each orbit, the instruments will capture scenes in a strip 185 kilometers (115 miles) wide. Each pixel in a Landsat scene represents an area approximately 30 meters (100 feet) in diameter (approximately the size of a baseball infield). Once operational, Landsat 9 will add more than 700 Earth scenes to the mission archives every day.
“Launches are always exciting, and today was no exception,” said Jeff Masek, NASA project scientist for Landsat 9. “But the best part for me as a scientist will be when the satellite starts. delivering the data people expect, adding to Landsat’s legendary reputation in the data user community.
The USGS Center for Earth Resource Science and Observation (EROS) in South Dakota processes and stores instrument data, continually adding this information to five decades of data from all Landsat satellites. All images and their embedded data are free and publicly available, a policy that has resulted in over 100 million downloads since its inception in 2008.
“By working in tandem with the other Landsat satellites, as well as with our partners in the European Space Agency who operate the Sentintel-2 satellites, we get a more complete view of Earth than ever before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for Science at NASA. . “With these satellites working together in orbit, we will have observations from anywhere on our planet every other day. This is extremely important for tracking things like crop growth and helping policymakers monitor the overall health of the Earth and its natural resources. “
NASA managed the Landsat 9 mission. Teams from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center built and tested the TIRS-2 instrument, while the NASA Launch Services program at the Kennedy Space Center managed the launch. Ball Aerospace built and tested the OLI-2 instrument. United Launch Alliance was the rocket supplier. Northrop Grumman built the Landsat 9 spacecraft, integrated it into instruments, and tested it. USGS EROS will operate the mission and manage the ground system, including maintenance of the Landsat archives.
Animation of the NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens, using GOES 17 data from NOAA and the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Photographs by NASA / Bill Ingalls. Story by NASA Headquarters Tylar Greene and Michael Carlowicz.