An oversized semitrailer has brought NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft to Vandenberg Air Force Base in preparation for the satellite’s trip to space in early 2013.
The satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., will continue the Landsat mission of providing images of Earth’s land, oceans and other natural resources. At Vandenberg, it will undergo preparations for a launch Feb. 11 aboard an Atlas 5 rocket. Liftoff is planned between 10:04 and 10:48 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base.
This will be the eighth satellite in the Landsat series of spacecraft since the first one flew in 1972.
The NASA and U.S. Geological Survey mission will continue a 40-year record of measuring changes on Earth from space.
“It will extend and expand global land observations that are critical in many sectors, including energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture,” NASA officials said.
The satellite will undergo additional testing at Vandenberg before being attached to the Atlas 5 rocket.
Tucked into a shipping container, the huge truck bearing the satellite left Orbital’s Gilbert, Ariz., facility on Dec. 17.
“LDCM builds on and strengthens a key American resource: a decades-long, unbroken Landsat-gathered record of our planet’s natural resources, particularly its food, water and forests,” said Jim Irons, Landsat project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
LDCM actually carries two instruments, the Operational Land Imager built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., and the Thermal Infrared Sensor built by NASA Goddard.
“Both of these instruments have evolutionary advances that make them the most advanced Landsat instruments to date and are designed to improve performance and reliability to improve observations of the global land surface,” said Ken Schwer, LDCM project manager at NASA Goddard.
Earlier in December, crews at Vandenberg conducted a fueling exercise for the Atlas 5 rocket.
The most recent spacecraft in this series, the Landsat-7 satellite, headed to space April 15, 1999, aboard a Delta 2 rocket that launched from Vandenberg.