Landsat 8 will image the entire earth every 16 days.
NASA will launch Landsat 8 on February 11, adding another satellite to the four decade old program. Landsat, launched in 1972 as a joint program between the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA, is intended to contribute to understanding of human impact on the planet by monitoring resource use. “With increasing population, and with advances in technology, our land cover and land use are currently changing at a rate unprecedented in human history,” said Jim Irons, an LCDM project scientist at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Md. Landsat 8 will orbit at an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers), and collect information on an about 185-kilometer wide area of land at once. The satellite will create a complete picture of the planet’s surface every 16 days. “The data is used by thousands of users all over the world for things like land resource monitoring, crop health identification, crop yield calculations, monitoring urban sprawl, urban planning – the data is used all over the place,” said a manager on the project.
There are two primary instruments aboard Landsat: the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). The OLI collects visible and near infrared wavelength information, while the TIRS collects surface temperatures. The images that Landsat 8 collects will be visible down to about 100 feet, Landsat 8 is launching and operating under the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), and will remain with NASA for three months before changing names to Landsat 8 and being taken over by USGS. Currently, the only operational Landsat satellite is Landsat 7, so Landsat 8 will double the number of operational satellites in the program.
Landsat will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission life is five years minimum, but NASA officials hope the life of the project will span a decade. The launch will be streamed live on NASA TV