February 11, 2013
New Addition To NASA Landsat Family Successfully Launches
[Watch Video: Landsat 8 Liftoff Aboard Atlas V]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe OnlineNASA successfully launched its future addition to the Landsat family into space this morning from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Launch Data Continuity Mission successful went into orbit aboard the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket at 1:02 p.m. Eastern Time. Everything went smoothly, and the Atlas soared into space without a hitch.
The eighth addition to the Landsat family will be losing the LDCM name, and earning its Landsat 8 name after everything checks out, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mission takes over.
Landsat 8 will be providing data of the Earth, giving the USGS scientists a complete picture of the planet's surface every 16 days. The satellite's detectors will help record a constant stream of data, passing 438 miles above the earth in a near-circular, near-polar orbit.
"All earlier Landsat sensors, on Landsats 1 through 7, were called 'whisk-broom sensors.' Each one of these sensors used a mirror that oscillated back and forth," said Jim Irons, LDCM project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"In contrast, both of the sensors on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, OLI and TIRS, instead of using an oscillating mirror, they will use long arrays of detectors across the focal plane of each instrument," he noted.
The satellite will be joining an award-winning family, as Landsat 5 just recently received the title for the "Longest-operating Earth observations satellite" by the Guinness World Records. Landsat 5 outlived its three-year design life, and has been giving scientists high-quality, Earth observation data for the past 28 years and 10 months.
Landsat 8 will be having to fill a void though, as Landsat 5 starts to close its almost 29 year mission after a failure of a redundant gyroscope.
The Landsat program is providing agricultural and forest monitoring, as well as water resource management, throughout the United States.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar were in attendance for today's launch in California. After the launch, Bolden is expected to go visit the SpaceX launch pad at 1:30 p.m., which is being built at Space Launch Complex-4. This facility will support the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket.
Landsat 8 is extending more than 40 years of global land observations that are critical to scientists, forests monitors, human and environmental health experts, urban planners, and many other fields of expertise. Hopefully, this satellite will see the same success Landsat 5 had, and will be extending this mission for nearly 70 years.