Landsat 9, NASA's most powerful Landsat satellite ever, is 'go' for launch on Monday

NASA cleared its latest powerful Earth-observing satellite to launch into orbit on Monday (Sept. 27,) from California.
Landsat 9 is currently on track to take off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, atop an Atlas V rocket donated by the United Launch Alliance. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:12 p.m. ET (11:12 AM PDT or 1812 GMT).

In a press conference on Saturday, Tim Dunn, NASA's launch director, stated that the spacecraft, the Atlas V rocket and all range equipment were ready. He said that the mission will be launched from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 3E within a 30-minute window.

Landsat 9 will launch four small cubesats into orbit. Two of them will be studying the exoplanet atmospheres and solar wind as part NASA research. Dunn stated that two others will fly undisclosed missions for U.S. Space Force.

Photos: Earth Pictures From Space: Landsat satellite Legacy

Artist's illustration of NASA Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite orbiting. NASA image credit

Landsat 9 is the ninth and most advanced satellite that will study Earth from the sky. It will be part of the Landsat program. This joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey has provided continuous imagery of the planet for almost 50 years. It is equipped with a high-resolution camera, and an infrared sensor. Together they can image Earth across 11 spectrum bands and resolve objects to 50 feet (15 meters). The satellite will orbit Earth at an altitude of approximately 438 miles (705 km) above the planet's poles.

In a press conference, Michael Egan, NASA's Landsat program manger, stated that Landsat satellites had been documenting Earth's changing landscape for nearly 50 years. "Landsat 9 will enhance and expand on this unsurpassed record of our planet."

Landsat 9 will have the ability to image the entire Earth every 16-days. Egan stated that the satellites, when combined with data from the predecessor Landsat 8 (launched in 2013), can cover the entire Earth every 8 days. Landsat 9 was designed to last at most 5 years in orbit, and it will replace the aging Landsat 7.

Since 1972, Landsat satellites have been monitoring the Earth. Mission officials stated that continuous coverage is crucial to monitoring Earth's changes as it experiences more extreme weather, storms, fires, and other effects of climate change.

In a press conference, Tanya Trujillo (Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior) stated that "climate change is real." The Landsat program can be used to guide our efforts to document and understand the changes that we see every day.

Northrop Grumman created the $750 million Landsat 9 mission for NASA. The team shaved approximately $90 million from its initial budget, Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA's associate administrator, science missions), told reporters Saturday.

It has been a long journey to Landsat 9's launchpad. Although the satellite was originally scheduled to launch on September 16, it was delayed due to a shortage of liquid nitrogen related to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Another delay was caused by high winds, which delayed the launch to Sept. 27.

Dunn stated that the mission will launch one minute earlier than originally planned in order to avoid any collision with NASA's Calypso/CloudSat satellite orbiting. Weather forecasts currently predict that launch conditions will be good for 60% of the time.

NASA and United Launch Alliance may not be able to launch Landsat 9 Monday. A backup launch window will be available on Tuesday with similar weather conditions.

Tariq Malik can be reached at, or on Twitter @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom on Facebook and Instagram.