LDCM Launched To Observe A Changing Earth

Landsat 8, launched on February 11, will keep track of Earth's modification due to human action (Credits: NASA).

Landsat 8, launched on February 11th, will keep track of Earth’s changes due to human action (Credits: NASA).

NASA successfully launched Landsat, its latest Earth-observation satellite, on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 from Vandenberg Air Force base, on February 11th.

“LDCM will continue to describe the human impact on Earth and the impact of Earth on humanity, which is vital for accommodating seven billion people on our planet.” said LDCM project manager Ken Schwer, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Landsat is part of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM).  The LDCM spacecraft is the 8th satellite in the history of the Landsat program, a joint NASA/United States Geological Survey project.  The goal of the project, started in July 1972, is to monitor forest loss, glacial retreat, urban sprawl and other geographical phenomena.

The $855 million LDCM satellite will be placed into a polar orbit with an altitude of 705 kilometres.  NASA will conduct testing on the spacecraft over the next 3 months, before delivering the operation’s control to USGS and renaming the satellite as Landsat 8.  Landsat 8 is carrying 2 payloads to observe Earth; the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS).  OLI will collect data in visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared wavelengths, while the TIRS will measure surface temperatures around the planet.  Landsat 8 will acquire images with a spatial resolution of 30 meters sending approximately 400 pictures per day to the ground segment.

Landsat 8’s aim is to help to understand how the growing human population is affecting Earth, by tracking urban expansion, natural resource use, global ice loss and other phenomena.  The spacecraft will cooperate with Landsat 7, which was launched in April 1999, to provide a complete view of the planet every 8 days until 2016, when Landsat 7 will use the last of its fuel required to maintain an operational orbit.

Although the instruments have been designed for an operational life between 3 to 5 years, NASA scientists hope that Landsat 8 will continue to collect data for at least 10 years.

Below, Landsat liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force base:

Landsat Continuity Mission’s overview:

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