NASA Launches Next-Gen Landsat Spacecraft
NASA on Monday successfully launched its new Landsat satellite from California’s Vandendberg Air Force Base, the space agency said.
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft, part of NASA’s ongoing mission to capture images and data from the Earth’s surface, “roared into space” atop an Atlas V rocket at 1:02 p.m. Eastern, space agency officials said. Satellites operated by NASA have monitored Earth from space continuously for the past four decades.
“Landsat is a centerpiece of NASA’s Earth Science program, and today’s successful launch will extend the longest continuous data record of Earth’s surface as seen from space,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
“This data is a key tool for monitoring climate change and has led to the improvement of human and biodiversity health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture monitoring—all resulting in incalculable benefits to the U.S. and world economy,” he added.
The satellite separated from its booster rocket 79 minutes after launch, a signal was received at a Svalbard, Norway station from the spacecraft at about 82 minutes into its flight, and the LCDM deployed its solar arrays just a few minutes later, NASA said. In about two months, the Landsat spacecraft is expected to reach its “operational, sun-synchronous, polar orbit” about 440 miles above the Earth.
Control of the LDCM, the eighth in a series of NASA Landsat satellites first launched in 1972, will be transferred to the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in about three months when it goes fully operational, NASA said. At that point, the satellite will be renamed Landsat 8.
Data gathered by the satellite will be made available to the public through an online archive.
“Landsat has been delivering invaluable scientific information about our planet for more than forty years. It’s an honor to be a part of today’s launch to ensure this critical data will continue to help us better understand our natural resources and help people like water managers, farmers, and resource managers make informed decisions,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
NASA scientists stressed advances made to the latest Landsat spacecraft, including the addition of improved instruments like the LDCM’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS).
“LDCM is the best Landsat satellite ever built. The technology will advance and improve the array of scientific investigations and resource management applications supported by Landsat images,” said LDCM project scientist Jim Irons of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“I anticipate new knowledge and applications to emerge with an increasing demand for the data.”
For more, check out NASA’s video of the LDCM separating from its Atlas V booster below.