NASA is gearing up for the launch of Landsat 9 – the latest satellite in the longest-running Earth-imaging satellite program, with its beginnings in the early 1970s. The ongoing partnership between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is responsible for capturing over 8 million beautiful scenes of our home planet – providing a record of Earth’s changing landscapes.
Every Landsat satellite has been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base since the program’s inception. On Monday, the space agency will once again follow tradition by launching Landsat 9, its latest planetary selfie cam.
Landsat 9 will replace the Landsat 7 which was launched over two decades ago and has since experienced an instrument failure resulting in about 22% of the pixels per scene not being scanned. Landsat 7 has already begun lowering in altitude in preparation for Landsat 9 to take its place 438 miles above Earth – a further orbit than the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. It’s unclear at this time when Landsat 7 will be de-orbited and burn up in the atmosphere.
“At that lower altitude, Landsat 7 will not provide science data, and Landsat 8 will likely be the sole provider of Landsat science data while Landsat 9 progresses through its on-orbit test and checkout.”
There have been a few improvements from the previous imaging satellite, Landsat 8, which was sent up in 2013.
Landsat 9 will have a higher imaging capacity, allowing for more detailed Earth observations from space. The new satellite will also feature a key improvement in stray light correction, an issue that was discovered on Landsat 8 a few years back. The instrument responsible for light correction has also been extended from a three-year life expectancy to five years on Landsat 9.
According to NASA, the 115-mile by 115-mile images from Landsat 9 will “enable informed decision support” in key areas such as water usage, deforestation, urban expansion, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat, and more.
The satellite will be launched Monday on an Atlas V rocket that arrived in California back in July.
With Landsat 9 being the latest satellite in the Landsat series — it will continue Landsat’s invaluable record-keeping of Earth’s surface, providing researchers with crucial data about our changing planet and giving us incredible astronaut-like views.
You can view the Landsat images all the way back from 1972, here.