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What is the Landsat satellite program and why is it important?

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

On July 23, 1972, in cooperation with NASA, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS-1) was launched. It was later renamed Landsat 1. Additional Landsat satellites followed in the 1970s and 1980s. Landsat 7 was launched in 1999 followed by Landsat 8,  launched on February 11, 2013.  

Both Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 are currently in orbit and collecting data. Landsat 9 is in development, and has a launch readiness date of mid-2021.

Landsat satellites have the optimal ground resolution and spectral bands to efficiently track land use and to document land change due to climate change, urbanization, drought, wildfire, biomass changes (carbon assessments), and a host of other natural and human-caused changes.

The Landsat Program’s continuous archive (1972-present) provides essential land change data and trending information not otherwise available. Landsat represents the world's longest continuously-acquired collection of space-based moderate-resolution land remote sensing data. Landsat is an essential capability that enables the U.S. Department of the Interior to wisely manage Federal lands. People around the world are using Landsat data for research, business, education, and other activities.

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