NASA’s next Earth-observing satellite, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), is tucked inside the payload faring of an Atlas V rocket in preparation for its launch into space from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on Feb. 11.
LDCM is the eighth satellite in the Landsat series, which began in 1972. It is the longest-running Earth-observing mission, collecting global land observations that are critical in many areas, such as energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture. NASA and the USGS jointly manage the Landsat Program.
After launch, LDCM will enter a polar orbit, circling Earth about 14 times daily from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers), returning over each location on Earth every 16 days. After launch and the initial checkout phase, the USGS will take operational control of the satellite, and LDCM will be renamed Landsat 8. Data will be downlinked to three ground stations in Gilmore Creek, Alaska; Svalbard, Norway; and Sioux Falls, S.D. The data will be archived and distributed at no cost to users from the USGS’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls.