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USGS and NASA officials made remote presentations instead of traveling to the Goddard Space Flight Center March 31-April 1 to conduct a vital Mission Operations Review (MOR) for Landsat 9 (L9). But that didn’t stop them from knocking the review out of the park nonetheless.

In the aftermath of what included 24 USGS presentations over the two-day technical review of the status of ground system and mission operations, an independent review panel report found that the USGS and NASA preparations “are very mature and significantly exceed MOR maturity level.”

Additionally, “Ground System development and (the) Mission Operations team are very well positioned to complete all remaining activities prior to launch without significant risk,” the report said.

So, here’s what the review panel wanted to see and hear. What was the status of the ground system implementation, including its integration and testing? What about flight operations team readiness? Ground system operations? Operational readiness exercises? How was the planning going for flight operations once NASA hands the keys to L9 over to the USGS after the satellite’s launch and on-orbit verification? And what about the overall mission transition plan?

Landsat 9 logo

Calling his team’s presentations “outstanding,” USGS L9 Project Manager Brian Sauer at EROS said they had to demonstrate to the review panel that they thoroughly understood the requirements for mission operations, data processing, and analysis. That their staffing was adequate to execute operations. That implementing the ground system would satisfy operational requirements. And that they had their planning in order for end-to-end verification and validation activities.

With only two requests for action (RFAs)—one related to a staff position to be filled; the other, involving the management of remaining automation development activities—Sauer said he certainly understood those concerns, and they would be addressed, “but the bottom line is, we had a successful MOR. We were ready. We met the criteria.”

A second major review, the Flight Operations Review, is scheduled now for December and is held very close in timing with the Operational Readiness Review, Sauer said. Between now and then, the team will continue to undergo mission readiness testing, simulations, and network readiness testing. 

That said, the joint USGS and NASA team has completed two mission readiness tests, as well as one simulation, and they’ve been very successful, Sauer said.

“We have a long way to go to complete the mission readiness activities,” he said. “But there’s a lot of confidence in our joint agency team and at the MOR, and it showed.”

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