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.

Key Milestones for Today’s 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/Kim Shiflett

The Landsat 9 observatory will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT).

Here’s a look at some of today’s upcoming countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate:

COUNTDOWN
Hr/Min/Sec      Event

– 00:16:00       Initiate fuel fill sequence
– 00:05:00       Fuel fill sequence is complete; water deluge system actuation pressure adjustment is performed; Atlas L02 at flight level; Centaur L02 at Flight level; Centaur LH2 at flight level
– 00:04:00       NAM and NLM final launch polls – go to continue countdown; spacecraft transfers to internal power
– 00:04:00       Hazardous gas monitoring is complete; automatic computer sequencer takes control for all critical events through liftoff; Atlas first stage LO2 replenishment is secured, allowing the tank to be pressurized for flight
– 00:03:00       Atlas tanks reach flight pressure
– 00:02:00       Atlas first stage and Centaur second stage switch to internal power; L02 and LH2 topping for Centaur will stop in 10 seconds
– 00:01:30       Launch control system is enabled
– 00:00:00      Ignition and liftoff of the Atlas V

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite is secured on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Sept. 27, 2021.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite is secured on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Sept. 27, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

LAUNCH AND SPACECRAFT DEPLOYMENT
Hr/Min/Sec    Event
00:01:27           Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:04:02          Atlas booster engine cutoff (BECO)
00:04:08          Atlas Centaur separation
00:04:18           Centaur first main engine start (MES-1)
00:04:26          Payload fairing jettison
00:16:30           Centaur first main engine cutoff (MECO-1)
01:20:40           Landsat 9 separation
01:50:43           Centaur second main engine start (MES-2)
01:50:53           Centaur second main engine cutoff (MECO-2)
02:10:53           Centaur third main engine start (MES-3)
02:11:03           Centaur third main engine cutoff (MECO-3)
02:14:05           Begin CubeSat Deployment
02:19:28           End CubeSat Deployment
02:57:44          Centaur fourth main engine start (MES-4)
02:58:09          Centaur fourth main engine cutoff (MECO-4)
03:19:56           End of mission

Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, or follow along here on the mission blog for a look at all of today’s major milestones.

Live Coverage of Landsat 9 Begins

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

Hello, and welcome to NASA’s live coverage of the Landsat 9 mission! Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, or follow along here on the mission blog for a look at all of today’s major milestones.

Landsat 9 is a joint NASA and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mission to monitor Earth’s land and coastal regions, scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The 30-minute launch window begins at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT).

While today’s launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Landsat 9 mission. Our coverage on the blog originates from the NASA News Center at Kennedy.

Today’s launch marks the continuation of 50 years of the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring the health of Earth and helping people manage essential resources, including crops, irrigation water, and forests. Images from Landsat 9 will be added to decades of free and publicly available data from the mission – the longest data record of Earth’s landscapes taken from space.

As part of NASA’s 34th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa), this mission also will deploy multiple CubeSats after Landsat 9 separation: the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector (CuPID) from Boston University. CUTE will measure how near-ultraviolet light from a host star changes when an exoplanet passes in front of it and through a planet’s atmosphere, and CuPID will measure X-rays emitted when solar wind plasma collides with neutral atoms in Earth’s atmosphere.

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:

Twitter: @NASA, @NASAEarth, @NASA_Landsat, @NASASocial, @NASA_LSP, @NASA360, @SLDelta30
Facebook: NASA, NASA Earth, NASA LSP, SLDelta30
Instagram: NASA, NASAEarth, Vandenberg_AFB

Weather 90% Favorable for Today’s Launch

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 3 (SLC-3) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Sept. 27, 2021, after rolling out from the Vertical Integration Facility.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with NASA’s Landsat 9 satellite arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 3 (SLC-3) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on Sept. 27, 2021, after rolling out from the Vertical Integration Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

NASA’s Landsat 9 ‘Go’ For Launch

Landsat 9
Encapsulated within the United Launch Alliance (ULA) payload fairing, the Landsat 9 spacecraft undergoes final preparations before launch inside the Integrated Processing Facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Aug. 25, 2021. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Chris Okula

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.”

Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT) Monday, or follow along right here on the mission blog, for live launch countdown coverage. Learn more about the mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/landsat.

Hitching a Ride on Landsat 9: ELaNa 34 CubeSats Fly First Class

CuPID CubeSat ELaNa 34
Emil Atz, a Boston University mechanical engineering PhD candidate, and Jacqueline Bachrach, Boston University, mechanical engineering junior, work on the CuPID spacecraft. Photo credit: Boston University Photography/Cydney Scott

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.

The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector (CuPID) from Boston University, are shoebox-sized spacecraft, each measuring approximately 8 inches by 4 inches by 13 inches.

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.”

CUTE CubeSat for ELaNa 34
Project Manager Rick Kohnert and graduate student Arika Egan show the CUTE spacecraft during dispenser installation testing at the University of Colorado. Photo credit: University of Colorado/Kevin France

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.