The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) was created in October 2002 to investigate and research options for the most feasible solution to follow the Landsat 7 mission. The next-generation Landsat satellite needed to ensure the continued acquisition and availability of Landsat-like data beyond the duration of the then-current Landsat missions.
Of the solutions offered, four options were considered:
- A commercial enterprise (which was met with a lack of industry interest).
- A commercial/government partnership (which was cancelled in 2003 due to inappropriate risk balancing).
- International partnerships (which continue to develop and mature for possible future collaborations).
- A government-only mission.
The original LDCM plans called for NASA to purchase data meeting LDCM specifications from a commercially owned and operated satellite system. (Option 2 above) However, after an evaluation of proposals received from industry, NASA cancelled the Request for Proposals in September 2003. In August 2004, a memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed Federal agencies to place Landsat-type sensors on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) platform.
Following an evaluation of the technical complexity of this task, the strategy was adjusted and on December 23, 2005, a memorandum from the OSTP directed planning to begin for a free-flyer government-only mission, carrying the Operational Land Imager (OLI). In December 2009 a decision was made to add a thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) to the mission payload.
NASA led the work on building the flight segment, securing launch services, flight ground systems integration, and conducting on-orbit initialization and verification. After launch checkout processes, the USGS became responsible for the operations of this mission, which include collecting, archiving, processing, and distributing data products. The mission was then renamed Landsat 8.
LDCM Milestones (Key Decision Points)
September 2008: LDCM KDP-B. This milestone occurred following a successful series of concept and technology development activities whereby the feasibility of the mission concept was measured, system requirements were generated and independently reviewed, and an Initial Confirmation Review was successfully held with NASA Headquarters.
December 2009: LDCM KDP-C. This milestone occurred following a successful series of system and mission preliminary design activities whereby an initial baseline capable of meeting mission needs (requirements) was established. KDP-C was declared following a successful Mission Confirmation Review held for NASA Headquarters
October 2011: LDCM KDP-D. This milestone occurred following a successful series of system and mission critical design activities, whereby the detailed design of the entire system was completed and successfully fabricated, including all hardware, software, and operational components. KDP-D was declared following a successful Mission Integration Review held for the LDCM Standing Review Board.
January 22, 2013: Safety and Mission Success Review (SMSR) at NASA HQ.
January 23, 2013: Fairing Encapsulation. The LDCM spacecraft was successfully placed into the payload fairing of the Atlas-V rocket that will carry the instrument into space.
January 25, 2013: Transport to Launch Pad. The payload fairing was transported to Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
January 30, 2013: LDCM KDP-E. This milestone occurred following successful system assembly, integration and test. Prior to KDP-E, the project must demonstrate high confidence that the LDCM will be able to meet system requirements, conduct launch and early orbit operations, and meet operational performance expectations. KDP-E will be declared following a successful Flight Readiness Review held for the LDCM Standing Review Board.
February 6: Flight Readiness Review (FRR). This review will be held at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The FRR will consist of audits and examinations of all flight and ground hardware, software, personnel, and procedures to ensure all are ready to proceed into operations.
February 7, 2013: Mission Dress Rehearsal. A launch dress rehearsal is done in preparation for the upcoming mission and provides all team members an opportunity to participate in simulated countdown activities.
February 8, 2013: Launch Readiness Review (LRR). This review will be held at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
February 11, 2013: Spacecraft Launch. LDCM will launch from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA, on Monday, February 11, 2013. Launch time is set for 10:02 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, with a launch window of 48 minutes.
February 11-14, 2013: Landsat Science Team Meeting. The meetings will be held in support and in conjunction of the LDCM launch.
April 2013: LDCM Initial Operating Capability (IOC). This will follow the successful completion of the LDCM on-orbit commissioning phase whereby LDCM is prepared for normal and routine operations. IOC will be declared following a successful Post-Launch Assessment Review (PLAR) and Operational Readiness Review (ORR).