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Landsat 7 Hits Milestone

On February 1, 2018, at 7:12 a.m. CST, Landsat 7 began its 100,000th orbit. Like watching your car’s odometer flip over and seeing all those zeroes, it’s an impressive accomplishment. Even if it’s not much different from its other 99,999 orbits, the feat reminds us of how far Landsat 7 has come.

Landsat 7 100,000th orbit image
Landsat 7, February 1, 2018, acquired on Landsat 7's 100,000th orbit. (Public domain.)

Since its launch on April 15, 1999, Landsat 7 has traveled 2.76 billion miles, the equivalent of nearly 15 round trips to the Sun. More importantly, it has collected well over 2.4 million scenes.

Landsat 7 follows Landsat 5 in reaching this milestone. In December 2002, Landsat 5 reached 100,000 orbits. It ended up completing more than 150,000 orbits before it was decommissioned in 2013 and earned a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest-operating Earth observation satellite.

To get that feeling of watching the odometer, here’s a photo taken in the Missions Operations Center (MOC) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, showing Landsat 7 turn over to 100,000 orbits.

One of the images Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensor acquired within the swath of data acquired during its 100,000th orbit is in north-central Argentina. The blocky shapes in the image are areas of extensive cropland. The Rio Dulce cuts across from upper left to lower right.

Color image from Landsat Mission Operations Center
Mission Operation Center (MOC) at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. (Public domain.)

The data were originally downlinked to the Landsat Ground Station in Alice Springs, Australia, before being sent to the USGS EROS Landsat archive in Sioux Falls, SD, and made available for download from EarthExplorer. Black stripes run through the image because of the Scan Line Corrector failure on Landsat 7 in May 2003.

It might be just another trip around the Earth in a polar orbit, another 400 images collected and sent to the archive at EROS, but this historic marker speaks to the longevity of the satellite and indicates a great job by the flight operations team to keep the mission going. And it’s not done yet!

Follow USGS Landsat (@USGSLandsat) on Twitter as we share some of the acquisitions from this milestone.

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