US: NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) have started work on Landsat 9, which will extend the Earth-observing programme’s record of land images to half a century. The satellite is scheduled for launch in 2023.
With data from Landsat satellites, ecologists have tracked deforestation in South America, water managers have monitored irrigation of farmland in the American West, and researchers have watched the growth of cities worldwide. The programme’s open archives have helped firefighters assess the severity of wildfires and scientists have mapped the retreat of mountain glaciers. NASA’s official press release states that the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget calls for initiation of a Landsat 9 spacecraft as an upgraded rebuild of Landsat 8, as well as development of a low-cost thermal infrared (TIR) free-flying satellite for launch in 2019 to reduce the risk of a data gap in this important measurement. The TIR free flyer will ensure data continuity by flying in formation with Landsat 8.
The Landsat 9 mission is a partnership between NASA and the USGS. NASA will build, launch, perform the initial check out and commissioning of the satellite; USGS will operate Landsat 9 and process, archive, and freely distribute the mission’s data.