NASA is targeting 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT) today, Sept. 27, for launch of Landsat 9. The launch window is 30 minutes. The NASA-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat 9 Earth-monitoring satellite will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Weather officials with the U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 are predicting a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for today’s launch, with ground winds serving as the primary weather concern.
Landsat 9 will continue the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions that began with the first Landsat satellite in 1972. Images from Landsat 9 will be added to nearly 50 years of free and publicly available data from the mission – the longest data record of Earth’s landscapes taken from space.
Beginning at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT), join us here on the blog for live coverage, and follow along on NASA TV or the agency’s website for the live launch broadcast.
With two days to go until liftoff of Landsat 9, the NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) joint mission to monitor Earth’s land and coastal regions, everything is on track for Monday’s planned launch, with the 30-minute launch window starting at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT).
The launch team adjusted the launch window by one minute to avoid the CloudSat and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) spacecraft, which are circling the globe in an orbit near the one planned for Landsat 9.
“Landsat is the ninth mission in a series, and it is an absolutely critical piece of NASA’s science portfolio,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate. “NASA has had an amazing year of science, launching a lot of technologies to Mars and deep space, and this mission is one of those dedicated to looking at our most beautiful planet.”
The U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 is predicting an 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. The primary weather concerns are ground winds.
The historic mission has remained on track, despite challenges from a worldwide pandemic, including current pandemic demands for medical liquid oxygen that impacted the delivery of the needed liquid nitrogen supply to Vandenberg by the Defense Logistics Agency and its supplier Airgas. Airgas converts the liquid nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen needed for launch vehicle testing and countdown sequence.
“We certainly had our challenges with the pandemic and liquid nitrogen supply chain issues causing a seven-day delay,” said Launch Director Tim Dunn of NASA’s Launch Services Program. “We’re back on track, and I’m personally thrilled to be the launch director for Landsat 9. The NASA engineers and analysts, working alongside our United Launch Alliance colleagues, take great pride in launching this mission.”
Landsat 9 is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch.
“The 9th Landsat will contribute a great understanding of what’s happening to the surface of our Earth,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA Earth Science Division. “It will provide vital foundational knowledge. Its power is really released when we combine the data from Landsat with our other Earth science missions. The data can tell us not just what is happening, but why.”
Landsat 9, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will carry two instruments: the Operational Land Imager 2, which collects images of Earth’s landscapes in visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared light, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2, which measures the temperature of land surfaces.
“There’s no doubt that the Landsat mission is at the core of the Department of the Interior’s important work,” said Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for Water and Science that the Department of the Interior. “We work every day to protect our natural resources and cultural heritage and provide scientific information about those resources that our communities can rely on.”
When it launches, Landsat 9 will join its predecessors in helping scientists track changes to Earth’s land surfaces at a scale that shows natural and human-caused change. Currently, both Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 are in a near-polar orbit of our planet. Each satellite repeats its orbital pattern every 16 days, with the two spacecraft offset so that each spot on Earth is measured by one or the other every eight days. Landsat 9 will join Landsat 8 in orbit and will replace Landsat 7, taking its place in orbit.
“For nearly 50 years, Landsat satellites have documented Earth’s changing landscapes, said Michael Egan, Landsat 9 program executive for NASA’s Earth Science Division. “As the Earth’s population approaches 8 billion people, Landsat 9 will continue to provide consistent data about the changing land cover and land use of our planet.”
Two small research satellites that are launching as part of NASA’s 34th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission promise exciting insights for the university researchers that developed them. The CubeSats will launch as secondary payloads when Landsat 9 lifts off at 11:11 a.m. PDT (2:11 p.m. EDT) Monday, Sept. 27, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Landsat 9, launching aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, is a joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey and will continue a nearly 50-year legacy of Earth-observing Landsat satellites. The two CubeSats will hitch a ride in the spacecraft’s secondary payload adapter.
CUTE aims to provide a better understanding of atmospheric loss on all types of planets by measuring atmospheric escape rates from giant exoplanets. Atmospheric escape is the loss of mass from a planet’s atmosphere over time. This phenomenon can affect a planet’s long-term physical properties, including the sizes of extrasolar planets and the habitability of rocky planets.
CUTE will target 10 to 12 exoplanets during its eight-month science mission, conducting a survey of heavy elements, such as iron and magnesium, escaping from the atmospheres of the most extreme planets in the galaxy.
“Measuring atmospheric escape rates allows astronomers and planetary scientists to better understand the physics behind atmospheric loss,” said Dr. Kevin France, associate professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and principal investigator of the CUTE mission. “This in turn allows us to better understand the atmospheres of known planets and predict the properties of extrasolar planets we have not yet discovered.”
The spacecraft will carry out its mission using a magnifying spectrograph fed by a rectangular Cassegrain telescope. CUTE is sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division.
CuPID will study how energy from the Sun is deposited into the Earth’s magnetosphere – a protective bubble around our home planet. This mission could solve long-standing questions on space weather and solar wind magnetosphere coupling. CuPID will measure X-rays in space using a novel wide field-of-view telescope to image reconnection signatures in the magnetosphere. Reconnection occurs when the Sun is active enough that its magnetic field fuses with the Earth’s. Using this soft X-ray telescope, CuPID will generate first-of-their-kind images of this phenomenon.
“Launch is scheduled to occur during a lecture of an orbital dynamics course I’m teaching this fall. I plan to have the class online watching. I’m not sure I could think of a better real-world example of the material,” said Dr. Brian Walsh, CuPID’s principal investigator, and professor of Mechanical Engineering and member of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University.
The CuPID mission, led by Boston University in Massachusetts, is a collaboration with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts; Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Heliophysics Division and Small Satellite Project Office.
NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) selected the CubeSats assigned to the ELaNa 34 mission by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. LSP manages the ELaNa manifest, and CSLI provides launch opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, NASA Centers, and non-profit organizations.
To date, NASA has selected 202 CubeSat missions, 122 of which have been launched into space, with 43 more missions scheduled for launch within the next 12 months. The selected CubeSats represent participants from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 102 unique organizations. CSLI’s 2021 Announcement of Partnership Opportunity is open for CubeSat proposals until Nov. 19, 2021.
Stay connected with these CubeSat missions on social media by following NASA’s Launch Services Program on Facebook and Twitter.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 predict a 90% percent chance of favorable weather for launch on Monday morning, with liftoff winds around 10 knots posing the main concern.
Launch coverage will begin at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT) on Sept. 27. You can follow the countdown milestones here on the blog and on the NASA website.
Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #Landsat and tag these accounts:
Officials from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will discuss the launch of the Landsat 9 satellite during a science briefing at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) Friday, Sept. 24.
The Landsat 9 launch is targeted to lift off Monday, Sept. 27, from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, with the 30-minute launch window starting at 11:11 a.m. PDT (2:11 p.m. EDT). The science briefing will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
Data from Landsat 9 will add to nearly 50 years of free and publicly available data from the Landsat program. The Landsat program is the longest-running enterprise for acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. It is a joint NASA/USGS program. Researchers harmonize Landsat data to detect the footprint of human activities and measure the effects of climate change on land over decades.
Once fully operational in orbit, Landsat 9 will replace Landsat 7 and join its sister satellite, Landsat 8, in continuing to collect data from across the planet every eight days. This calibrated data will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring land use and helping decision-makers manage essential resources including crops, water resources, and forests.
Briefing participants, in speaking order, are:
Jeff Masek, Project Scientist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Chris Crawford, Project Scientist, USGS
Alyssa Whitcraft, Associate Director and Program Manager, NASA Harvest Consortium
Del Jenstrom, Landsat 9 Project Manager, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Brian Sauer, Landsat 9 Project Manager, USGS
Sabrina Chapman, Manager, System Engineering, Northrop Grumman Space Systems
Sarah Lipscy, OLI-2 Senior Engineer, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will manage the mission. Teams from Goddard also built and tested one of the two instruments on Landsat 9, the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) instrument. TIRS-2 will use thermal imaging to make measurements that are used to calculate soil moisture and detect the health of plants.
The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will operate the mission and manage the ground system, including maintaining the Landsat archive. Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, built and tested the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) instrument, another imaging sensor that provides data in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared portions of the spectrum. United Launch Alliance is the rocket provider for Landsat 9’s launch. Northrop Grumman in Gilbert, Arizona, built the Landsat 9 spacecraft, integrated it with instruments, and tested the observatory.
A nine-month demolition project for the 25-foot high, 160-foot long, and 135-foot-wide platform, which weighed 9.1 million pounds, was completed last month. Though MLP-2 was a historic piece of equipment, its removal makes way for newer, more advanced technology at the Florida spaceport.
“It was bittersweet having to dismantle MLP-2,” said John Giles, Exploration Ground Systems crawler transporter operations manager. “However, it allows us to make room for newer, more advanced assets to support Artemis missions that will return humans to the Moon and beyond.”
Mobile launcher platforms were used for shuttle missions lifting off from Launch Complex 39A and 39B. These structures did not require a tower since the launch pad had a tower and rotating service structure to allow access to the vehicle.
Since the retirement of the shuttle program, the historic Launch Complex 39A, once the site of Apollo and Saturn V missions, was leased to SpaceX and upgraded to support commercial launches carrying cargo and astronauts into space.
Launch Complex 39B also has changed with the times. It began as an Apollo era structure, was converted for shuttle launches, and now is a clean pad ready to support the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, carrying the Orion spacecraft as the agency returns to the Moon. When SLS lifts off from pad 39B carrying Orion for the Artemis I mission, it will use the new, advanced mobile launcher that comes with a built-in tower.
Click here to watch a time-lapse video of the MLP-2 demolition.
Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs successfully completed the Umbilical Release and Retract Test on Sept. 19 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the Artemis I mission.
The umbilicals will provide power, communications, coolant, and fuel to the rocket and the Orion spacecraft while at the launch pad until they disconnect and retract at ignition and liftoff.
“Previous testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility and in the VAB refined our designs and processes and validated the subsystems individually, and for Artemis I, we wanted to prove our new systems would work together to support launch,” said Jerry Daun, Jacobs Arms and Umbilical Systems Operations Manager.
“This test is important because the next time these ground umbilical systems are used will be the day of the Artemis I launch,” said Scott Cieslak, umbilical operations and testing technical lead.
Teams will continue conducting tests inside the VAB before transporting the Orion spacecraft to the assembly building and stacking it atop the SLS, completing assembly of the rocket for the Artemis I mission.
“It was a great team effort to build, and now test, these critical systems,” said Peter Chitko, arms and umbilicals integration manager. “This test marked an important milestone because each umbilical must release from its connection point at T-0 to ensure the rocket and spacecraft can lift off safely.”
Artemis I will be the first integrated test of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. In later Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.
Launch preparations for NASA’s Lucy spacecraft are well underway at an Astrotech Space Operations processing facility in Titusville, Florida. The spacecraft arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center on July 30, 2021, and shortly after its arrival, was transported to Astrotech’s facility nearby to undergo prelaunch processing.
The latest milestone occurred on Sept. 9, when Lucy was attached to the payload adapter. This is the physical structure that will secure the spacecraft to the launch vehicle – in this case, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Closer to launch, the payload adapter will be attached to the rocket’s second stage.
Liftoff of the Atlas V is scheduled for Oct. 16 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and the launch is being managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy – America’s multi-user spaceport.
Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are thought to be remnants of the initial material that formed the planets within the solar system. Over the course of 12 years, Lucy will visit eight different asteroids, providing researchers and scientists with a never-before-seen glimpse into the origins of our solar system.
NASA and United Launch Alliance currently are reviewing the launch date for the Landsat 9 spacecraft scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Attaching the spacecraft to the Atlas V rocket has been delayed due to out-of-tolerance high winds for the operation and conflicts with other customers using the Western Range.
The Landsat 9 mission now is expected to launch from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3 no earlier than Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.
Landsat 9 is a joint NASA and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mission that continues the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, which began with the first Landsat in 1972.
NASA and SpaceX are continuing plans to launch Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station as early as Sunday Oct. 31, and targeting the return home of Crew-2 astronauts in the early-to-mid November timeframe.
Crew-3 will be the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the space station, and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020, Crew-1 mission in 2020-21, and the ongoing Crew-2 flight as part of the Expedition 65 crew.
The Crew-3 mission will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.
Crew-3 astronauts plan to arrive at the station to overlap with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission in April 2021.
Missions teams also are targeting no earlier than April 15, 2022, for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the space station for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.
Crew-4 will be commanded by Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot, both NASA astronauts. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will be a mission specialist and command the ISS Expedition 68 crew, while the remaining crew member has yet to be named. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return to Earth in late April 2022 following a similar handover with Crew-4.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and Mars.