Everything You Need to Know about Landsat 8

By Joe Francica

NASA held a press briefing (and issued a press release) on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), the eighth satellite to be launched in the ongoing Landsat mission and soon to be renamed Landsat 8 after launch. The briefing was held to discuss mission management and the satellite's launch on February 11. Participating in the briefing was David Jarrett, LDCM program executive, NASA Headquarters; Jim Irons, LDCM project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC); Ken Schwer, LDCM project manager, NASA GSFC; and Matthew Larsen, associate director for climate and land use change, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 
According to NASA, "LDCM is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat Program's 40-year data record of monitoring Earth's landscapes from space. LDCM will expand and improve on that record with observations that advance a wide range of Earth sciences and contribute to the management of agriculture, water and forest resources."
Jarrett explained that the satellite is on track to launch and will provide more data than any other prior satellite. Schwer described the pre-launch stress tests that the satellite has undergone and deemed it "ready." The LDCM spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation and will be encapsulated within an Atlas V rocket built by the United Launch Alliance (ULA).
It is anticipated that over 400 images per day will be collected, the most ever by any previous Landsat satellite. NASA Goddard will manage the entire launch mission and early orbit operations while the USGS will be responsible for post -launch operations, ground systems and data archive.
Irons said that the biggest improvement of the sensors, the Operational Land Imager (OLI), built by Ball Aerospace, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), built by NASA Goddard is reliability.  In addition, both are using "pushbroom" charged coupled devices (CCD) that provide less radiometric distortion than previous Landsat sensors that are "whiskbroom" CCD sensors (See more details in NASA's LDCM Brochure).  NASA expects lower signal to noise ratio with the newer "pushbroom" sensors. The OLI is anticipated to have a five-year lifespan.
Irons also said that he expects that about 90 days post-launch that NASA will have operational data. "A first light image will come 23 days post-launch; 60 days after launch there will be a first look with some calibration," said Irons.
Irons responded affirmatively when asked if NASA anticipates greater demand for imagery from government agencies given the pending merger of the two commercial earth imaging satellite companies, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye.
Since the USGS changed its policy to offer free satellite imagery from its archives, downloads now average 3 million per year and are on track for approximately 10 million this year.
See more information about the LDCM in the video below: 

Published Friday, January 11th, 2013

Written by Joe Francica

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