Landsat 9 satellite, NASA’s ‘new eye in the sky’ – All you need to know

NASA successfully launched Landsat 9 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on September 27. 

Landsat 9 satellite, Source: NASA
Landsat 9 satellite, Source: NASA

Landsat 9: US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched Landsat 9 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on September 27, 2021, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 2.12 pm EDT. The Svalbard satellite-monitoring ground station of Norway received signals from Landsat 9 about 83 minutes after the launch. Landsat 9 is a powerful satellite that will monitor the land surface of Earth and help study climate change.

Landsat 9 will be our new eyes in the sky when it comes to observing our changing planet,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for Science at NASA.

What is NASA’s Landsat 9?

Landsat 9 is the latest and 9th Earth observation satellite in the Landsat series which is a partnership between NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat 9 will help in continuing the Landsat program of global observation and recording Earth’s land surface.

The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972. The USGS and Science Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has been processing and storing data from all of the Landsat satellites.

Landsat 9 is in its final orbit at an altitude of approximately 438 miles (705 kms) over Earth’s poles.

How will Landsat 9 work?

Landsat 9 will join Landsat 8 which was launched in 2013. Landsat 9 is equipped with the Opera­tional Land Imager 2 (OLI–2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS–2) that will measure 11 wavelengths of light reflected or radiated off Earth’s surface, in the visible spectrum as well as other wavelengths beyond what naked eye can detect.

Landsat 9 is equipped with two science instruments has sensors with moderate spatial resolution namely 15m, 30m, and 100m. Landsat 9 is capable of detecting a higher range in intensity than Landsat 8.

Landsat 9 will image the Earth every 16 days in an 8-day offset with Landsat 8. Landsat 9 alone will collect as many as 750 scenes per day, and together both the satellites will collect nearly 1,500 new scenes a day to the USGS Landsat archive, as stated by USGS. Each image captured will span across 115 miles (185 kms) of Earth’s land surface.

What are the functions of Landsat 9?

Landsat 9 will help in expanding our abilities to measures changes across the Earth and its land surface so that decision-makers can make informed management decisions. It will also help to track crop growth, monitor natural resources on Earth, etc. Landsat 9 will aid informed decision making across four key areas:

Climate change: It will provide insight into how the past five decades of climate change have affected the Earth’s surface and biology.

Tropical deforestation and global forest dynamics: It will give an unbiased and impartial record of Earth’s forests for governments and organizations to study the claims of environmental protection and carbon storage.

Urban expansion: It will aid in the study of the impact of urbanization and environmental damage.

Water use: It will aid in the management of water in areas across the US.

Coral reef degradation: It will enable global monitoring of reefs on Earth.

Glacier and ice-shelf retreat: It will continue to monitor the glaciers on Earth.

Natural and man-made disasters: The data from the Landsat series has been used by the International Disaster Charter for mapping the impacts of natural and man-made disasters.

Who designed Landsat 9 spacecraft?

The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corpora­tion, Boulder, Colorado, built the Opera­tional Land Imager 2 (OLI–2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS–2) was built at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

Landsat 9 spacecraft has been designed and fabricated by Northrop Grumman. They are also responsible for integrating the two science instruments.


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