A new Earth-watching sentinel is presently circling the globe in the near-polar orbit, following today’s
beautiful launch of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The spacecraft—which represents the eighth in a series of satellites, dating back to July 1972—was successfully
boosted aloft by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket at 10:02 a.m. PST (1:02 p.m. EST),
right on the opening of the 48-minute “window.” Liftoff occurred at Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3,
under clear skies and was watched by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The launch kicks off a planned five-year mission, which will provide moderate-resolution imaging of the
Home Planet’s terrestrial and polar regions at visible and infrared wavelengths. This is expected to support
future land planning, disaster response, and water-use monitoring, together with maintaining a watchful eye
on Earth’s climate, ecosystems, water cycle, surface, and interior dynamics. The LDCM spacecraft is part of a
collaborative effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. According to Project Scientist Jim Irons of
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.,
it is quite simply “the best Landsat satellite yet launched in terms of quality and quantity of data.”