Houston, We Have a Pepper

Four chile pepper plants growing aboard the International Space Station in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) bore fruit. Photo credit: NASA

Recently, the four chile pepper plants growing aboard the International Space Station in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) bore fruit – several peppers, in fact.

Peppers developed from flowers that bloomed in the Advanced Plant Habitat on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

The peppers developed from flowers that bloomed over the past few weeks. Peppers are self-pollinating, and once pollination occurred, peppers started forming 24 to 48 hours later; however, not all pollinated flowers developed into peppers.

A unique feature of the APH is that it can be controlled remotely. To pollinate the flowers in orbit, the team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center instructed APH to run its fans at variable rates to create a gentle breeze in microgravity to agitate the flowers and encourage the transfer of pollen. The space station crew also provided assistance by hand pollinating some of the flowers.

GMT273_12_13_For Huntsville_Megan McArthur_1091_Plant Habitat 04

Studies of fruit development in microgravity are limited, and NASA researchers have noted lower fruit development versus ground observations in this experiment for reasons that are not fully understood at this point. Overcoming the challenges of growing fruit in microgravity is important for long-duration missions during which crew members will need good sources of Vitamin C – such as peppers – to supplement their diets.

The average length for this type of pepper is just over three inches in ground tests. Hatch chile peppers are a mild heat pepper that starts out as green and will ripen to red over time, but it’s unknown what effect microgravity will have on the length to which they grow and their potency.

Astronauts will perform two harvests this year – one at 100 days in late October, and one at 120 days in early November. At those times, astronauts will sanitize the peppers, eat part of their harvests, and return the rest to Earth for analysis.

Cargo Dragon Splashes Down in the Atlantic, Science Delivered to Kennedy

SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft
SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft is lifted aboard a recovery vessel after splashing down off the coast of Florida on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The capsule, carrying cargo that flew aboard NASA’s SpaceX 23rd commercial resupply services mission, undocked from the International Space Station Thursday at approximately 9 a.m. The event marked the first time a Cargo Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft completed a successful parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida around 11 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 30. The capsule undocked from the station’s forward port of the Harmony module Thursday at 9:12 a.m., completing the voyage in approximately 14 hours.

This marked the first time Cargo Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The proximity to the coast of Florida enabled quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers hours after splashdown. The shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects.

Dragon launched Aug. 29 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy, arriving at the station the following day. The spacecraft delivered more than 4,800 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting outpost.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NOAA’s GOES-T Launch Update

Artist's rendering of GOES-R, NASA
Credit: NASA/Artist’s rendering of GOES-R

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are now targeting Feb. 16, 2022, for the launch of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) mission. The launch was previously planned for Jan. 8, 2022. NASA, NOAA, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) coordinated the new target date to optimize launch schedules for missions flying from Space Launch Complex-41.

GOES-T will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. The two-hour launch window will open at 4:40 p.m. EST. This launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center.

GOES-T is the third satellite in the GOES-R Series, which will extend NOAA’s operational geostationary satellite observations through 2036. The GOES satellite network helps meteorologists observe and predict local weather events, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, hurricanes, flash floods and other severe weather.

NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office, administering the ground system contract, operating the satellites, and distributing their data to users worldwide. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin designs, creates, and tests the GOES-R Series satellites. L3Harris Technologies provides the main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, along with the ground system, which includes the antenna system for data reception.

Looking forward, NOAA is working with NASA on the next-generation geostationary satellite mission called Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO), which will bring new capabilities in support of U.S. weather, ocean, and climate operations in the 2030s.  NASA will manage the development of the GeoXO satellites and launch them for NOAA.

Landsat 9 Continues a Legacy of 50 Years

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Landsat 9 satellite onboard is seen, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The Landsat 9 satellite, a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey mission that continues the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force on Monday, Sept. 27, at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT). Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

After a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully carried the Landsat 9 spacecraft into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Sept. 27, the satellite now joins Landsat 8 in orbit and replaces Landsat 7, launched in 1999.

Landsat 9 and Landsat 8 will collect images from across the planet every eight days. This calibrated data will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring the health of Earth and helping people manage essential resources, including crops, irrigation water, and forests.

“Landsat provides one basic set of observations that feeds an entire range of Earth science applications and research,” said NASA Landsat 9 Project Scientist Jeff Masek.

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. Landsat’s medium-resolution imaging capability allows researchers to harmonize the images to detect the footprint of human activities and their impact on our home planet over the decades.

NASA Landsat 9 Project Scientist Jeff Masek poses for a photograph by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the Landsat 9 satellite at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

“We have over 2,000 peer-reviewed publications every year in the scientific literature that depend on the Landsat archive,” Masek said. “Landsat is our best source for understanding rates of tropical deforestation, as well as other forest dynamics like disturbances from hurricanes, wildfires, insect outbreaks, as well as the recovery of those disturbances over time.”

As Landsat 9 orbits Earth, it captures scenes across a swath 185 kilometers (115) miles wide. Each pixel in these images is 30 meters across, or about the size of a baseball infield, which allows resource managers to resolve most crop fields in the United States. Its instruments collect images of Earth’s landscapes in visible, near and shortwave (reflected) infrared, and thermal infrared wavelengths. Like its predecessors, Landsat 9 is a joint effort of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The USGS collection data allow the science, government, civil, and international user communities to map wildfires, primary and secondary contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, ice cover persistence, melt, water clarity, water quality, floating algae biomass, landcover that’s changed, and also urban growth and the heat island effects on local and regional temperature,” said USGS Project Scientist Chris Crawford. “The USGS 5-year archive provides a highly reliable, highly stable, and high-quality terrestrial and aquatic imaging record that can enable the quantification of space and time effects of climate variability and change on both human and natural systems.”

The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of a phytoplankton bloom in the Sea of Marmara on May 17, 2015.
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of a phytoplankton bloom in the Sea of Marmara on May 17, 2015. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Since the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972, the mission’s archive has grown to contain more than 8 million images. Landsat 9 data will add to this archive to better our understanding of Earth in innumerable ways – from tracking water use in crop fields in the western United States, to monitoring deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, to measuring the speed of Antarctic glaciers. Decision makers from across the globe use the freely available Landsat data to better understand environmental change, forecast global crop production, respond to natural disasters, and more. The usefulness of the data stems from the careful design and engineering of the satellite and the mission.

“Landsat allows us to track in near real time, and in a consistent way, changes to our planet and specifically to our agricultural lands,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, program director of NASA Harvest, the agency’s food security and agriculture program. “One of the biggest stories of landcover change Landsat has been instrumental to reveal and to track has been the rapid deforestation in the Amazon in South America, in large part driven by agricultural expansion for pastures and croplands. Without Landsat’s historical data archive, we wouldn’t be able to track such massive land changes, which have critical implications for Earth’s ecosystems, biodiversity, and for climate.”

Landsat 9 is designed to last at least five years on orbit but has enough fuel to operate for at least 15 years, including de-orbit, though it could last for 20 or more years. Data from the satellite will become available to the public after completion of the satellite’s 100-day checkout period in January. The next Landsat mission is already in the works, with a series of planned enhancements, including higher spatial resolution, more spectral bands, and more frequent coverage, which are the highest priorities from the Landsat user communities.

To learn more about Landsat 9, visit https://www.nasa.gov/specials/landsat; https://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov; and https://www.usgs.gov/landsat.

Continue following 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:

Twitter: @NASA, @NASAEarth, @NASA_Landsat, @NASASocial, @NASA_LSP, @NASA360
Facebook: NASA, NASA Earth, NASA LSP
Instagram: NASA, NASAEarth

Landsat 9 Satellite Separates From Second Stage, Traveling on Its Own

A graphic of Landsat 9 shows successful separation from the United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage just over an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff.
An animated graphic shows successful separation of the Landsat 9 observatory from the United Launch Alliance Centaur second stage just over an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff. Photo credit: NASA TV

The Landsat 9 satellite has separated from the Centaur second stage.

Once online, Landsat 9 will take its place as the most advanced satellite in the Landsat series and extend the data record of Earth’s land surface that began with the first Landsat satellite in 1972. Landsat’s high-quality scientific data makes multi-decadal time series studies possible, and its data are regularly used for land management efforts around the world.

Landsat 9 Satellite in Coast Phase

The United Launch Alliance Centaur second stage achieved the desired near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit for Landsat 9 just over 16 minutes into flight. It is now coasting to the other side of the Earth to release the spacecraft just over an hour from now.

Landsat 9 Launches!

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches the Landsat 9 satellite into near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sept. 27, 2021.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches the Landsat 9 satellite into near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sept. 27, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Landsat 9, powered by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket, has lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California today, Sept. 27! Launch occurred at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT).

Launch Director – ‘Go’ For Launch

The Landsat 9 satellite, a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey mission that will continue the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, is scheduled for liftoff today from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT).
The Landsat 9 satellite, a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey mission that will continue the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, is scheduled for liftoff today from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT). Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The launch director has just given the Landsat 9 mission a ‘go’ for launch! Mission and launch managers are counting down to the launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Launch will take place less than five minutes from now.

Landsat 9 should reach the desired near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit just over 16 minutes into flight. It will then coast over an hour to the other side of Earth before the satellite is released.

Coming Up: Liftoff of the NASA-USGS Landsat 9 Mission

Landsat 9 on the launch pad.
The Landsat 9 satellite, a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey mission that will continue the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, is scheduled for liftoff today from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT). Photo credit: NASA TV

In just over 15 minutes from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket carrying Landsat 9 will rumble to life, sending the NASA-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth-monitoring satellite on its mission. The fuel fill sequence has been initiated, and the rocket is being fueled with liquid oxygen (LO2) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1).

Prior to launch, targeted for 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT), several sequences will be performed to ensure launch success. The fuel fill sequence will be completed, water deluge system actuation pressure adjustment will be performed, the LO2 in the Atlas booster and Centaur second stage will reach flight levels, as well as the liquid hydrogen fuel levels in the Centaur. Final launch polls are conducted and before a go to continue countdown, at which time the spacecraft transfers to internal power and an automatic computer sequencer takes control for all critical events through liftoff. Fuel tanks reach flight pressure, and the Atlas first stage and Centaur second stage switch to internal power. The launch control system is enabled, and ‘go’ for launch is verified before entering terminal countdown.

Landsat 9 will join its sister satellite, Landsat 8, in orbit, collecting images from across the planet every eight days. This calibrated data will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring the health of Earth and helping people manage essential resources, including crops, irrigation water, and forests. To learn more about how NASA’s Earth science work makes a difference in people’s lives around the world every day, follow @NASAEarth on Twitter, NASA Earth on Facebook, and NASAEarth on Instagram.

Landsat 9: Nextgen of the Landsat Series

This image of the Lena River taken was with Landsat 7. The Lena Delta Reserve is the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia.
This image of the Lena River was made possible by data acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite, which will be replaced by Landsat 9. The Lena Delta Reserve is the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia. Photo credit: NASA

Nearly 50 years after the launch of the first Landsat satellite, Landsat 9 strikes a balance using state-of-the-art technology that will collect the highest quality data ever recorded by a Landsat satellite, while still ensuring that these new measurements can be compared to those taken by previous generations of the Earth-observing satellite.

The new satellite will add more than 700 scenes of Earth to the mission’s archive each day. A near-polar orbit will allow the satellite’s sensors to image almost the entire planet every 16 days. When Landsat 9 joins Landsat 8 in orbit, the two satellites together will be able to image each swath of the globe every eight days.

Landsat 9 carries two instruments that largely replicate the instruments on Landsat 8: the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2).

The OLI-2, built by the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, measures in the visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared portions of the spectrum. Its images will have 15-meter (49 ft.) panchromatic and 30-meter multi-spectral spatial resolutions along a 185 km (115 miles) wide swath, covering wide areas of the Earth’s landscape while providing sufficient resolution to distinguish features like urban centers, farms, forests, and other land uses. The entire Earth falls within view once every 16 days due to Landsat 9’s near-polar orbit.

TIRS-2 measures land surface temperature in two thermal bands with a new technology that applies quantum physics to detect heat. The original TIRS instrument was added to the Landsat 8 satellite mission when it became clear that state water resource managers rely on the highly accurate measurements of Earth’s thermal energy obtained by its predecessors, Landsat 5 and Landsat 7, to track how land and water are being used. With nearly 80% of the fresh water in the western U.S. being used to irrigate crops, TIRS and TIRS-2 are invaluable tools for managing water consumption.

The instruments use Quantum Well Infrared Photodetectors (QWIPs) to detect long wavelengths of light emitted by the Earth, whose intensity depends on surface temperature. These wavelengths, called thermal infrared, are well beyond the range of human vision. QWIPs are a new, lower-cost alternative to conventional infrared technology and were developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The QWIPs, TIRS, and TIRS-2 use are sensitive to two thermal infrared wavelength bands, helping it separate the temperature of the Earth’s surface from that of the atmosphere. Their design operates on the complex principles of quantum mechanics. Gallium arsenide semiconductor chips trap electrons in an energy state ‘well’ until the electrons are elevated to a higher state by thermal infrared light of a certain wavelength. The elevated electrons create an electrical signal that can be read out and recorded to create a digital image.