NASA/USGS Landsat 9 now operational – “Landsat 9 images are fantastic”

This natural-color image of San Francisco Bay was captured by Landsat 9’s new Operational Land Imager 2 instrument. Landsat 9, which launched September 27, 2021, is now in its operational phase and the USGS will release the given to the public from mid-February. Credit: NASA/USGS

Landsat 9, a joint mission of " data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">Nasa and the US Geological Survey (USGS), passed its post-launch assessment review and is now in its operational phase.

Continuing the Landsat program’s nearly 50-year record of Earth imagery from orbit, the USGS plans to begin releasing Landsat 9 data to the public in early February.

Landsat 9 launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on September 27, 2021. The mission team made contact with the spacecraft shortly after it separated from the rocket, and since then they have been working to test, calibrate and commission the new satellite and its instruments.

“The Landsat 9 images are fantastic,” said Del Jenstrom, Landsat 9 project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “I am incredibly proud of our joint team of agencies and contractors for executing a very thorough and highly successful in-orbit commissioning campaign, bringing this important mission to operational status.”

One of the commissioning activities was to fly Landsat 9 into an orbit below its sister satellite, Landsat 8, imaging the same strip of land at essentially the same time, which allowed the team to confirm that the radiometry and data geometry align as expected.

Landsat 9 circular irrigated agricultural fields

Circular irrigated agricultural fields near Alexandria, Egypt, appear blue in this image captured by the new Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 aboard Landsat 9. TIRS-2 measures surface temperature, so cool, irrigated fields stand out from the hotter arid lands. Credit: NASA/USGS

They also calibrated the instruments through a variety of methods, including tilting the Landsat 9 spacecraft to image the full Moon – a stable light source to ensure the instruments detect light consistently. It also confirmed that the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2, or TIRS-2, instrument on the new satellite does not have the stray light issues that plagued the first version of the instrument on Landsat 8. This will allow researchers to take more accurate surface temperature. measurements, said NASA Landsat 9 project scientist Jeff Masek.

Masek said TIRS-2 and Landsat 9’s other instrument, the Operational Land Imager 2, or OLI-2, are both working as expected. This means that with Landsat 9 and Landsat 8 in orbit, there will be high quality, medium resolution imagery every eight days. He said he was eager to see what people would do with the new data about Earth’s landscapes and coastal regions.

“Landsat’s user base is eager to have another observatory that will double the frequency at which they can get this high-quality data,” Masek said. “This will really benefit research in areas such as snow cover, crop monitoring and water quality.”

NASA led the commissioning campaign and will soon transfer operational control of the two Landsat 9 instruments to the USGS, which will broadcast and archive the data. Command of the spacecraft itself and the mission will be handed over to the USGS in May, once the team completes a software update that will address a radiation sensitivity issue identified by the team during the verification of data loggers. The mitigation measures have proven effective and the software update will ensure that these measures continue in an automated manner.

“Landsat 9 stands out among Earth observation missions because it has the honor of extending the 50-year Landsat observational record into the next 50 years,” said USGS Landsat 9 project scientist Dr. Chris Crawford. “Landsat 9 improves the spatial resolution, spectral continuity and coincident acquisition of reflected and emitted thermal infrared image data from Landsats 1-8. Landsat 9 provides continuous 8-day global land and coastal coverage in partnership with Landsat 8 in orbit.

The Landsat 9 launch was handled by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In July, the Landsat program will mark 50 years since the launch of the first Landsat satellite. Since then, the program has provided continuous coverage of Earth’s land surfaces, enabling scientists and resource managers to track land cover, land use and the impacts of climate change and to monitor natural resources.

About Travis Durham

Check Also

NASA Recognizes Montana Teachers

HELENA – NASA has recognized 2 teachers from Montana for their teaching at the Montana …