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Monday, February 11, 2013

NASA launches New Earth Observation Satellite

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) roared into space at 1:02 p.m. EST (10:02 a.m. PST) Monday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, according to the Feb. 11 press release from NASA.

"Landsat is a centerpiece of NASA's Earth Science program, and today's successful launch will extend the longest continuous data record of Earth's surface as seen from space," said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, himself a former astronaut and Marine Corps general. 

"This data is a key tool for monitoring climate change and has led to the improvement of human and biodiversity health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture monitoring -- all resulting in incalculable benefits to the U.S. and world economy," he said.

The LDCM spacecraft separated from the rocket 79 minutes after launch and the first signal was received 3 minutes later at a ground station in Svalbard, Norway.

The solar arrays--which generate power for the spacecraft--deployed 86 minutes after launch. LDCM should reach its operational, sun-synchronous, polar orbit 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth within two months.

After a three-month check-out phase, NASA will transfer operational control of LDCM to NASA's mission partner, the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 

USGS will rename the satellite Landsat 8, and the organization will archive and distribute LCDM's data free over the Internet from the Earth Resources and Science (EROS) center in Sioux Falls, S.D. The center should post this data within 100 days of launch.

LDCM is the eighth in the Landsat series of satellites that have been continuously observing Earth's land surfaces since 1972.
According to the NASA press release, scientists have used public Landsat data in the past to detect changes over time to our planet, while researchers for various firms, public and private, have created a myriad of applications and technologies based on the Landsat information.

The new LDCM carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager (OLI)
and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), that improve upon previous technology, said Jim Irons,
a LDCM project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"LDCM is the best Landsat satellite ever built," he said.
OLI will continue observations currently made by Landsat 7 in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It also will take measurements in two new bands, one to observe high-altitude cirrus clouds and another to observe atmospheric aerosols as well as water quality in lakes and shallow coastal waters. OLI's new design has fewer moving parts than instruments on previous Landsat satellites.

Meanwhile TIRS will collect data on heat emitted from Earth's surface in two thermal bands, as compared with a single thermal band on previous Landsat satellites. These thermal band observations are becoming increasingly vital to monitoring water consumption, especially in the arid western United States.

NASA's also planning to inaugurate a new SpaceX launchpad in 2015 with the launch of the Jason-3 mission, which will precisely measure sea surface height on Earth to monitor ocean circulation and sea level. SpaceX is the newest American company to demonstrate the capability to launch science missions for NASA and other government agencies. Jason-3 will be developed and operated as part of an international effort led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more information about LDCM, visit:


What do you think? Good thing, bad thing? If I'm not mistaken this is more of the satellites, remember, that can see everything and everyone all the time. On the other hand, this is some seriously awesome public information scientists and researchers will access to make awesome things. What say you?

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