NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have stepped up the pace on the Landsat 9 program. The earth observation satellite is now scheduled for launch in December 2020, three years sooner than the earlier scheduled date of 2023. This fast-tracked timeline was declared at the Landsat 9 Ground System Requirements Review (GSRR) meeting on Wednesday.
Landsat 9, which will be a rebuild of Landsat 8, will have a higher imaging capacity than past Landsats. With an aim to collect around 720 scenes per day, Landsat 9 will operate in a WRS-2 orbit with 98-min single orbital path. It will be launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
In preparation for the launch of Landsat 9, NASA will move Landsat 7 into a lower orbit (697km) by mid-2020. It was also revealed that Landsat 9 ground system will be modified to be an integrated enterprise structure for current and future Landsat ground systems. The main reason behind Landsat 9 ground system change is because NASA plans to move to an ‘all land’ image acquisition strategy.
With the first satellite launched in 1972, Landsat is the longest-lived series of land imaging satellites. The program provides more than 43 years archive of natural and human-induced changes on Earth.
Earlier this year, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement, “Moving out on Landsat 9 is a high priority for NASA and USGS as part of a sustainable land imaging program that will serve the nation into the future as the current Landsat program has done for decades. Continuing the critical observations made by the Landsat satellites is important now and their value will only grow in the future, given the long term environmental changes we are seeing on planet Earth.”
Also on Wednesday, Google released a timelapse video showing how our planet has transformed between 1984 and 2016. For this, majority of the images were sourced from Landsat satellites.