NASA orders Landsat 9 from Orbital ATK continuing partnership with the US Geological Survey

by | Oct 26, 2016 | NASA, Satellites, Science, Seradata News | 0 comments

On 25 October, 2016, NASA announced it had placed an order with Orbital ATK for the Landsat 9 spacecraft. The order was placed utilising the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III contract, which allows NASA to order “proven spacecraft designs” from a number of contractors for missions which don’t require many unique elements. The Landsat series of spacecraft are operated by the US Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) programme between NASA and USGS, which provides accurate, global measurements of land cover for numerous civil applications.

The construction contract is worth US$129.9m, and includes manufacture and testing of the satellite alongside payload integration services. The spacecraft is expected to be launched in late-2020, to coincide with the predicted end-of-life of Landsat 8. A launch contract has yet to be announced.

Landsat 9 will use the same spacecraft platform as its predecessor Landsat 8, LEOSTAR-3, and will carry duplicate instruments; TIRS (Thermal InfraRed Sensor) supplied by NASA GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) and OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) built by Ball Aerospace. OLI-2 is an upgraded version of the OLI instrument on-board Landsat 8.

Comment by Matthew Wilson: Although a specific launch vehicle has not been identified by NASA, the most likely contender seems to be the ULA Atlas V 401, the same rocket which launched its predecessor, for this near-identical mission. The alternatives include the upcoming ULA Vulcan rocket (set for its first launch in 2019) and the SpaceX Falcon 9 which has launched previous US Government missions.

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