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Landsat 8

The first Landsat satellite in the 21st century, Landsat 8 provides vital information with two new instruments.

Artist rendering Landsat 8
Artist's rendition of Landsat 8 in orbit

Landsat 8 (formerly the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM) was launched on an Atlas-V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on February 11, 2013. The satellite carries the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) instruments.

The OLI measures in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared portions (VNIR, NIR, and SWIR) of the spectrum. The TIRS measures land surface temperature in two thermal bands with a new technology that applies quantum physics to detect heat. Landsat 8 images have 15-meter panchromatic and 30-meter multi-spectral spatial resolutions along a 185 km (115 mi) swath.



brown landscape satellite image
Landsat 8’s first image captured the area where the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains meet in Colorado. The natural-color image shows the coniferous forest of the mountains coming down to the dormant plains. Boulder, Colorado, sits in the middle of the image. Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) sensor was developed and built here by the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation. 

Landsat 8 Satellite Orbit Facts

  • Orbits the Earth in a sun-synchronous, near-polar orbit (98.2 degrees inclination)
  • Achieved an altitude of 705 km (438 mi)
  • Completes one Earth orbit every 99 minutes
  • Has a 16-day repeat cycle with an equatorial crossing time of 10:00 a.m. +/- 15 minutes
  • Acquires about 740 scenes a day on the Worldwide Reference System-2 (WRS-2) path/row system, with a swath overlap (or sidelap) varying from 7 percent at the equator to a maximum of approximately 85 percent at extreme latitudes

Landsat 8 Instruments

Landsat 8 carries two sensors. The Operational Land Imager sensor is built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation. The Thermal Infrared Sensor is built by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Operational Land Imager (OLI)

  • Nine spectral bands, including a pan band:
    • Band 1 Coastal Aerosol (0.43 - 0.45 µm) 30 m
    • Band 2 Blue (0.450 - 0.51 µm) 30 m
    • Band 3 Green (0.53 - 0.59 µm) 30 m
    • Band 4 Red (0.64 - 0.67 µm) 30 m
    • Band 5 Near-Infrared (0.85 - 0.88 µm) 30 m
    • Band 6 SWIR 1(1.57 - 1.65 µm) 30 m
    • Band 7 SWIR 2 (2.11 - 2.29 µm) 30 m
    • Band 8 Panchromatic (PAN) (0.50 - 0.68 µm) 15 m
    • Band 9 Cirrus (1.36 - 1.38 µm) 30 m

OLI captures data with improved radiometric precision over a 12-bit dynamic range, which improves overall signal to noise ratio. This translates into 4096 potential grey levels, compared with only 256 grey levels in Landsat 1-7 8-bit instruments. Improved signal to noise performance enables improved characterization of land cover state and condition.

The 12-bit data are scaled to 16-bit integers and delivered in the Level-1 data products. Products are scaled to 55,000 grey levels, and can be rescaled to the Top of Atmosphere (TOA) reflectance and/or radiance using radiometric rescaling coefficients provided in the product metadata file (MTL file).

Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS)

  • Two spectral bands:
    • Band 10 TIRS 1 (10.6 - 11.19 µm) 100 m
    • Band 11 TIRS 2 (11.5 - 12.51 µm) 100 m

Landsat 8 Spacecraft Facts

  • Built by Orbital Science Corporation
  • 3.14 terabit solid-state data recorder
  • Power provided by a single 9 x 0.4 meter solar array and one 125 Ampere-Hour (AHr), Nickel-Hydrogen (NiH2) battery
  • Weight: 2,071 kg (4,566 lbs) fully loaded with fuel (without instruments)
  • Length: 3 m (9.8 ft)
  • Diameter: 2.4 m (7.9 ft)
  • Direct Downlink with Solid State Recorders (SSR)
  • Data rate: 384 Mbps on X-band frequency; 260.92 Mbps on S-band frequency

Landsat 8 Data Products

Landsat 8 data products are consistent with all Landsat standard Level-1 data products, using the specifications described on the Landsat Processing Details page.

Landsat 8 Pre-WRS-2 Data Products

Nearly 10,000 scenes were acquired by OLI/TIRS after launch (February 11, 2013) through April 10, 2013, when the satellite achieved operational orbit (WRS-2). The earliest images are TIRS data only. These data are also visible and can be downloaded from EarthExplorer or GloVis.

While these data meet the quality standards and have the same geometric precision as data acquired on and after April 11, 2013, the geographic extents of each scene may differ. Most data are processed to the highest level possible, however there may be some differences in the spatial resolution of the early TIRS images due to telescope temperature changes, but they should be within +/- 1 percent.

Landsat 8 Data Users Handbook

Additional Resources