NASA transfers Landsat 9 satellite to USGS – provides global coverage of landscape changes on Earth

Landsat 9 Gulf

Illustration of the Landsat 9 spacecraft in orbit around Earth, passing over the US from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The satellite will travel at a speed of 7.5 km/s, orbiting the globe at an altitude of 705 km (438 mi) every 99 minutes. Landsat 9 will image 185 km (115 mi) in width and will complete about 14 orbits each day, imaging every part of Earth every 16 days. credit: NASA

on August 11,[{” attribute=””>NASA transferred ownership and operational control of the Landsat 9 satellite to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in a ceremony in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Landsat 9 is the newest in the Landsat series of remote-sensing satellites, which provide global coverage of landscape changes on Earth. The Landsat program – a joint effort between NASA and USGS – is a long-running project that recently marked 50 years of continuous service on July 23.

“For more than fifty years now, Landsat satellites have helped us learn more about how Earth systems work, how human activities affect those systems, and how we can make better decisions for the future,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Landsat 9, the latest joint effort by NASA and USGS, proudly carries on that remarkable record.”

NASA launched Landsat 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on September 27, 2021. Since then, NASA mission engineers and scientists, with USGS collaboration, have been putting the satellite through its paces. This included steering it into its orbit, calibrating the detectors, and collecting test images. Now fully mission-certified, the satellite is under USGS operational control for the remainder of its mission life.


Countdown to 9 things about the Landsat mission, science, technology and the people who continue its legacy. credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

“Our partnership with NASA over the years has been good for science and for the American people,” said Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary of State for Water and Science. “Landsat’s half-century collection of Earth observations is a groundbreaking achievement in the history of science. This fifty-year record gives scientists a coherent baseline that can be used to track climate change and how they can be tracked on that land.” Enables you to see changes that might otherwise be unnoticed.

Landsat 9 joins Landsat 8, which has been in orbit since 2013. Together, the two satellites collect images of Earth’s entire surface every eight days. An average of 740 Landsat 9 sequences are collected daily from around the world by USGS experts and processed and stored at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls.


Video showing the Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 constellations and paths used for Earth imaging. credit: NASA

Remote-sensing satellites such as Landsat help scientists observe the world using ranges of light beyond the power of human vision. It allows monitoring of land changes that may have natural or human causes. Landsat is unique because it continuously captures a wide view of Earth at a medium resolution of about 30 meters (98 ft), the field of a baseball field. This global view of land change over decades provides a unique perspective for a wide range of data applications in fields such as agriculture, water management, forestry, disaster response, and importantly, climate change science.

According to estimates, Landsat provides billions of dollars in value to the US economy every year. Landsat images and data became available to the public at no charge in 2008. This policy has served to expand the applications of Landsat data enabling greater efficiencies for government agencies while creating profitable business opportunities for the information services industries.

With a data user community that continues to grow, engineers and scientists are already looking forward to the next mission. NASA and the USGS are developing options for the next iteration of Landsat, currently called Landsat Next.

The Landsat program has provided continuous global coverage of landscape change since 1972. Landsat’s unmatched long-term data record provides the basis for a critical understanding of environmental and climate changes occurring in the United States and around the world.

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