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Landsat 7 Extended Science Mission

The Landsat 7 satellite was launched in 1999, and data from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensor onboard acquired data on the World Reference System-2 (WRS-2) for over 20 years before being lowered from the standard 705 kilometers (km) orbit to 697 km in April of 2022. 


Illustration of Landsat 7 in orbit
Illustration of Landsat 7 in orbit

After Landsat 7 was lowered to 697 km and all systems were deemed nominal, the ETM+ resumed imaging on May 5, 2022. Initial plans called for the satellite to continue to acquire data until the end of the 2022 Northern Hemisphere growing season, and then ‘orbit-in-waiting’ for the NASA's On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing-1 (OSAM-1) servicing mission. However, since the health of the satellite and the ETM+ sensor remained steady, and the quality of the data remained nominal, data acquisitions continued.

Since being lowered in orbit, the satellite has continued to drift within its orbit, exposing it to periods of full sunlight and earlier imaging times, impacting imaging opportunities and the ability to process valid science data.

On January 19, 2024, Landsat 7 imaging was suspended due to the satellite’s transition into full sunlight, which caused issues with the batteries. Imaging was suspended to retain the health and safety of the batteries. The satellite will remain in full sunlight until mid-April 2024. Visit the January 19th News page describes more about how being in full sunlight affects the satellite, and why data imaging was suspended. 

Below are details about the Landsat 7 extended science mission, including Calibration/Validation efforts to ensure the data acquired during the Landsat 7 extended science mission remain high quality and usable. 



Landsat 7 ESM NDVI Animation

In the lower orbit, Landsat 7 is no longer on a repeating ground track, and data acquisitions were not aligned to the World Reference System-2 (WRS-2) used by Landsat 8 and Landsat 9. Additionally, Landsat 7 acquisition footprints have continually shifted in relation to the WRS-2 grid. 

This animation displays the shifts in three Landsat 7 NDVI images acquired between May and June 2022.  These scenes are all cataloged in the Landsat data archive as Path 38 Row 37.


Data Acquisition

The ETM+ acquired about 450 images per day, and the satellite's current mean local crossing time at the equator is now earlier than 8:30 AM. Landsat 7 added over 175,000 scenes to the USGS Landsat archive from May 5, 2022 to January 19, 2024 during the extended science mission. The heatmap below displays the worldwide acquisitions.  

Landsat Extended Science Mission Scenes as of Jan 19, 2024


Data Products

It is important to note that while Landsat 7 data remains valuable, attention needs to be placed when searching for data from the mission. The data acquired during the Landsat 7 extended science mission are processed to Landsat Collection 2 Level-1 calibrated data products, and then to Level-2 surface reflectance and surface temperature science products. Like other Landsat products, they are available for download on USGS data access portals.

EarthExplorer footprints of two Landsat 7 scenes from WRS2 path 25 row 28

Reminder: No U.S. Landsat Analysis Ready Data (ARD) or Level-3 science products are created from the Landsat 7 extended science mission data. 

The image to the right displays the EarthExplorer footprints of two Landsat 7 scenes from WRS2 path 25 row 28. The red footprint denotes a scene acquired March 27, 2022, at 705 km orbit; the green footprint denotes a scene acquired November 4, 2022, at the lowered 697 km orbit. Data in the right margin portion of the March scene is not included in the November scene. 

Tip: When searching for Landsat 7 extended science mission scenes, the most accurate results will be returned by searching by region of interest (ROI), instead of specific WRS-2 path/row designations.


Calibration/Validation Results

Overall, the quality and utility of the Landsat 7 extended science mission data remains within its prior nominal performance. The USGS/NASA Calibration/Validation Team continually analyzes and quantifies the data collected by the ETM+ at the lower orbit. To date, no significant changes have been evident in the spectral bands, and the radiometric and geometric quality of the data remain stable within established thresholds.  Data from the Landsat 7 extended science mission is still reliable for relevant global impact assessments.

Additional Calibration/Validation efforts regarding the extended science mission will be added to this page when they become available.


Science Analysis

Members of the USGS and the Technical Support Services Contract (TSSC) Landsat Science Office (LSO) team at USGS EROS performed analysis on the Level-2 science products created from Landsat 7 extended science mission data.  As more analysis is completed, it will be added to this page.

CFMask Pixel Quality Assessment: Within the CFMask Pixel Quality Assessment (QA_PIXEL) data, reasonable agreement has been found between pixel classifications in clear Landsat 7 and Landsat 9 scenes (see the image below). Many of the differences were due to data acquisition timing (Landsat 7 scene center time: 15:34:19.8050354Z; Landsat 9: 17:01:43.1991100Z), the SLC-off artifact in Landsat 7,and orbit offset. There was stronger disagreement in cloudy scenes. 

pixel count for classifications in nearly cloud-free L7 and Landsat 9 scenes

Underfly Activities Promote Data Quality

Even though Landsat 7 is no longer on WRS-2, the opportunity for the satellite to collect coincident data with Landsat 8 or Landsat 9 benefits the calibration of the ETM+ sensor, as well as the Operational Land Imagers and Thermal Infrared Sensors onboard Landsat 8 and Landsat 9. Analysis of Landsat 7’s underfly of Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 are being evaluated and will be added here when they become available.


Landsat 7 Extended Science Mission Images

Landsat 7 Captures Hurricane Ian Aftermath
On October 2, 2022, Landsat 7 captured brownish-black sediment runoff from rivers and streams on the southwest coast of Florida after Hurricane Ian devastated the area on Wednesday, September 28. 
Landsat 7 Image of the Vall d'Ebo Fire near Pego, Spain
This Landsat 7 image acquired on August 14, 2022 shows the Vall d'Ebo Fire near Pego, Spain.