New Landsat Probe Arrives At Vandenberg
December 21, 2012

Eighth Landsat Probe Delivered To Vandenberg Air Force Base

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), the eighth probe in NASA's long-running satellite imagery acquisition program, has been delivered to California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in preparation for its upcoming launch, officials with the US space agency announced on Thursday.

The LDCM, which was built and tested by Arizona-based Orbital Sciences Corporation and departed their facility onboard a semi-trailer truck earlier this week, will "extend and expand global land observations that are critical in many sectors, including energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture," NASA said.

It is the eighth satellite in the organization's Landsat series, which started in 1972 with the launch of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). The program's satellites have spent the last four decades monitoring changes on Earth from outer space, and once it completes final tests, LDCM will look to continue those efforts on February 11, when it is launched into the skies by an Atlas V rocket.

"LDCM builds on and strengthens a key American resource: a decades-long, unbroken Landsat-gathered record of our planet's natural resources, particularly its food, water and forests," Jim Irons, the Landsat project scientist at NASA's Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The satellite will carry a pair of instruments with it into space: the Operational Land Imager (OLI), which was designed by the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), which was built in-house at Goddard.

According to NASA, "OLI will continue observations in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum and includes two new spectral bands, one of which is designed to support monitoring of coastal waters and the other to detect previously hard to see cirrus clouds that can otherwise unknowingly impact the signal from the Earth surface in the other spectral bands."

TIRS, on the other hand, will use new technology to measure the planet's land surface temperature in a pair of thermal bands. That measurement, the space agency says, is essential to monitoring water consumption, especially in the hotter, drier regions of the western US. It will be able to separate Earth's surface temperature from that of its atmosphere using technology inspired by quantum mechanics.

"Both of these instruments have evolutionary advances that make them the most advanced Landsat instruments to date and are designed to improve performance and reliability to improve observations of the global land surface," explained Ken Schwer, LDCM project manager at the Goddard facility.

Like all Landsat program satellites, LDCM will be jointly managed by NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS). Following the probe's launch and initial check-out phase, which will be overseen by NASA, operational control of the satellite will be handed over to the USGS, who will record, compile and distribute the information collected by both instruments. The satellite will also be renamed Landsat 8 once the Department of the Interior affiliate assumes control of its operations.