USGS EROS Archive - Landsat Legacy - Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) Film Only

Science Center Objects

EROS Laser Beam Recorders (LBRs) recorded MSS and RBV data at 28 microns to 9-inch film rolls and the imagery was chipped up for archival storage and remains a viable archive backup to the digital MSS archive

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Return Beam Vidicon (RBV)

Sub-scene for Puerto Maldonado, Peru, April 20, 1982
(Public domain)

The Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) operated on Landsat satellites 1 and 2, and acquired approximately 1,600 sub-scenes at 80 meter resolution. The initial RBV sensor configuration used three independent cameras, each sensing a different spectral wavelength such as (0.48 to 0.83, 0.48 to 0.57, 0.58 to 0.68, and 0.70 to 0.83 micrometer).  Landsat 1 and 2 RBV data were recorded to 70 millimeter (mm) black and white film rolls at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center and delivered to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center for archiving and user distribution.  

The RBV sensor utilized vidicon tube instruments containing an electron gun that read images from a photoconductive faceplate similar to television cameras  The data stream received from the satellite was analog-to-digital preprocessed to correct for radiometric and geometric errors.   The RBV system was redesigned for Landsat 3 to use a two-camera configuration mounted side by side that acquired four sub-scenes within the field of view of a Multispectral Scanner (MSS) scene.  The Landsat 3 RBV spatial resolution is 40 meters with a spectral wavelength of 0.505 to 0.75 micrometer.  Landsat 3 data were also recorded to 70 mm film until the EROS Digital Imagery Processing System (EDIPS) became operational in 1979.  EROS Laser Beam Recorders (LBRs) recorded MSS and RBV data at 28 microns to 9-inch film rolls and the imagery was chipped up for archival storage and remains a viable archive backup to the digital MSS archive.  However, all of the RBV digital archive data were purged for lack of computer compatible reasons.   The last known collection of RBV tapes were disposed of in 2003. 

Today, the RBV 70 mm and 9-inch film sources are maintained in the USGS EROS archive and are accessible through EarthExplorer as an on-demand film scanning product.  RBV images that are scanned and the black and white images faithfully represent the Landsat RBV film archive as it exists today. 

Digital Products

One download option is available through EarthExplorer at no cost to the user for the RBV Film Only sub scenes that have already been scanned.

  • The file size for each black-and-white scan is approximately 100 MB. The file is one RBV sub scene stored in a TIFF format.

If the RBV Film Only sub scenes have not been already scanned, an order can be placed to scan the film at $30.00 per sub scene. A $5.00 handling fee is charged for all orders requiring payment.

Coverage Maps

Coverage Maps indicating the availability of RBV Film Only products are available for download.

Additional Information

Access Data

EarthExplorer can be used to search, preview and download RBV sub-scenes.  The collection is located under the Landsat Legacy category.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) Film Only Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number: /10.5066/P9A7AC65