Landsat 9 Reaches Orbit, Makes Ground Contact to Continue Legacy

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Landsat 9 is functioning as expected after its successful launch at 1:12 p.m. CT Monday, Sept. 27, from Vandenberg Space Force Base to join its two predecessors in orbit.

The Earth-observing satellite separated from the Atlas V rocket at 2:34 p.m. and made contact about 80 minutes later with the ground station at Svalbard, Norway.

color photo of Landsat 9 launch

Landsat 9 launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 1:12 p.m. CT Monday, Sept. 27, aboard an Atlas V rocket. (NASA photo)

“Landsat 9 is the first mission of the USGS-NASA Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) partnership, delivering the long-awaited first installment of a multi-decadal commitment to sustaining Landsat continuity for hundreds of thousands of users in the U.S. and across the globe,” said Tim Newman, program coordinator for the USGS National Land Imaging Program.

NASA is currently testing and evaluating the on-orbit performance characteristics of the spacecraft’s operating and mission-specific systems. After approximately 100 days post-launch, when NASA has ensured everything is working properly, it will turn the satellite over to the USGS.

“We’re very excited by the increase in capability Landsat 9 delivers to our users and eager to take operational control of the mission once we finish our on-orbit checkout with NASA,” Newman said.

“It’s exciting,” said Kristi Kline, Satellite and Ground Systems Operations branch chief at the USGS EROS Center. “Our new baby has arrived.”

This is the third Landsat to launch during the EROS tenure of Terry Sohl, who is currently the acting branch chief for the Integrated Science and Applications Branch.

“The overwhelming reaction is excitement and anticipation, particularly as Landsat 7’s value as a science instrument is coming to an end. We need that second system to provide data continuity and a denser temporal coverage,” Sohl said.

John Hahn, the deputy director of EROS, also emphasized the importance of Landsat 9’s role with Landsat 8 in maintaining the eight-day repeat cycle of observing every point on Earth. “This is a continuation of some of the important work that we do and an advancement,” he said.

Newman also looks ahead to the advancements of the satellite that will follow. “With Landsat 9 safely in orbit, our SLI development program focus shifts now to its next major project—Landsat Next, which is well underway and should revolutionize the capability we deliver to our users.”

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