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Landsat Missions

Landsat and LDCM Headlines 2009

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triangle down December 18, 2009 – Landsat 5 Anomaly

On Friday, December 18, 2009, the transmitter on Landsat 5 experienced technical difficulties. There has been no Landsat 5 data acquired since that time. The U.S. Geological Survey Flight Operations team has extensive experience with this transmitter and is currently addressing the situation. Any news or updates will be posted on

triangle down December 3, 2009 – TerraLook

TerraLook was developed to serve the traditional science communities that have used satellite data for analyzing and monitoring change, as well as science writers, field scientists, resource managers, policy makers, members of the education community and the general public - groups that have a growing need for information but don't have the technical expertise, time to prepare and organize images for visualization, or access to specialized scientific image processing software. TerraLook images are designed for visual interpretation rather than digital analysis. To read more about TerraLook, visit Earth Imaging Journal.

triangle down September 28 – October 5, 2009 – Landsat Ground Station Operators Working Group (LGSOWG#38) Meeting

This year's Landsat Ground Station Operators Working Group (LGSOWG#38) meeting was held in Berlin, Germany, September 28–October 5, 2009. The meeting was jointly organized by the USGS and NASA and was hosted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Participants from 11 countries represented 14 international ground stations and discussed a wide range of programmatic and technical topics.

Presentations included Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 mission status, the Landsat Project’s Web-enabled product distribution statistics, Landsat 4 Thematic Mapper (TM) and Landsat 1-5 Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) product development progress, the Global Land Survey Projects, the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation initiative, proposed data validation and exchange modifications, and future development plans. LDCM-related presentations included project and ground system status, ground system and downlink overview, data processing flow, and the LDCM Ground System-to-International Cooperator (IC) interface, including the IC Web Portal. Additionally, the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program provided the attendees with an overview of the future land remote sensing satellite data downlink framework agreement, along with the National Land Imaging initiative’s international vision and goals. A Landsat Science Team update was also presented, providing an update on its working group activities and several key research projects.

Each International Cooperator briefed the group on the status of their systems, addressed their future satellite mission(s) and ground system plans, and provided an overview of their data distribution statistics and business model impacts since the introduction of Landsat web-enabled data. Finally, a representative from the Australian Department of Climate Change capped the meeting with a briefing on the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) initiative.

ICs in attendance included representatives from the following countries and organizations:

Group Photo
Figure 1. LGSOWG#38 participants

triangle down October 1, 2009 – USGS Scientists Survey Users of Moderate-Resolution Satellite Imagery

Understanding the benefits and value of the imagery provided by moderate-resolution satellites, such as Landsat, is essential as future land-imaging initiatives move forward. To identify the importance of these images, USGS researchers are conducting a comprehensive, Web-based survey of nearly 4,000 moderate-resolution imagery users. The survey, initiated by the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program, is the most comprehensive assessment of users and uses of moderate-resolution imagery to date. Survey recipients were selected using a unique "snowballing" method to identify a cross-section of professional users across all sectors (government, academic, private, nonprofit). The survey aims to (1) identify and classify the breadth and depth of the users and uses of moderate-resolution imagery, and (2) understand the importance and value of Landsat imagery in decision making. The study will also summarize the financial impacts on users and their work if Landsat imagery, currently available at no cost, were not available, and assess their willingness to pay for replacement imagery. Results will be relevant to government, academia, and private industry because they will establish a baseline understanding of professional users as well as the value and uses of satellite imagery in their work. In particular, managers in the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program will use these results to support their efforts to ensure data continuity, better serve users, and augment Landsat benefits. The survey will be launched later this month, with results expected in early 2010.

triangle down September 29, 2009 – New Bulk Download Tool for Landsat Free Data.

For the first 1.1 million free Landsat scenes, users had to download one scene at a time. The Landsat Project has developed a bulk download tool so users can more easily download entire lists. After uploading a list of Landsat Scene IDs, scenes that are available on-line can be immediately downloaded. For those scenes that need to be processed, a link is provided directly into our EarthExplorer ordering system (there is no charge for processing). GloVis, EarthExplorer, or user-generated Landsat Scene ID lists can be used. Please go to for more information.

triangle down August 20, 2009 – Free Landsat Scenes Go Public by the Million

On August 17, someone who wanted to see how the Earth looks from 440 miles away in space downloaded the one-millionth Landsat satellite image scene from a U.S. Geological Survey web site at its Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Since the USGS opened its full Landsat archive to user access at no charge last October, the response from across the nation and around the globe has grown exponentially.

"USGS satellite operations and its data archives at EROS enable experts, or any interested member of the public, to see the land objectively with unbiased, consistently calibrated data," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The historical depth and reliability of these earth observations are vital to scientists and land managers across the country and across the Department of the Interior in projects that range from climate change studies and invasive species surveys to the monitoring of drought and assessment of wildfire damage."

One development of particular note is that the very oldest data in the archive, dating to over three decades ago, is being downloaded at unprecedented levels - with land-surface change detection emerging as a primary use of Landsat data.

"The opening of the Landsat archive to free, web-based access is like giving a library card for the world's best library of Earth conditions to everyone in the world," said Adam Gerrand, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Landsat 1 was launched on July 23, 1972, and subsequent Landsat missions have continually acquired land-image data across the globe. Scientists, educators, and the general public use these data for a wide array of activities ranging from supporting disaster relief efforts to making agricultural crop assessments to identifying sites for cell phone towers.

Landsat scenes can be previewed and downloaded through: or

Additional information on satellites, sensors, data, and the Landsat Program, which is managed by the USGS in partnership with NASA, can be found at:

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit

Subscribe to USGS News Releases via our electronic mailing list or RSS feed.

triangle down August 17, 2009 – Landsat 5 Update

Evaluation of the Landsat 5 data following the recent spacecraft anomaly is complete. All data collected at the Landsat Ground Station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota from Saturday, August 15, 2009 through today (Monday, August 17, 2009) are currently available for order or immediate download ( or

Engineers deemed the data from Friday, August 14 as non-nominal due to cooler than normal temperatures associated with the primary focal plane of the instrument. Data from that day will remain unavailable for order or download. The Landsat Team continues to investigate the cause of the incident, but do not have anything definitive to report at this time.

triangle down August 14, 2009 – Landsat 5 Update

Landsat 5 operations continued successfully last night. The Thematic Mapper instrument payload was turned on today, and imagery was successfully downlinked at the Landsat Ground Station (LGS) in Sioux Falls, SD. You will be able to monitor the passes on EarthNow ( Engineering staff are currently evaluating the data collected to determine if the instrument has returned to nominal operating conditions. Data collected will not be offered to the public until it is evaluated. We are still investigating the cause of the anomaly, but do not have anything definitive to report at this time.

triangle down August 13, 2009 – Landsat 5 Anomaly

Landsat 5 experienced an anomaly in the early morning hours of August 13, 2009. The Flight Operations Team (FOT) is assessing the problem and testing spacecraft systems. No imaging will occur until further notice.

At 0523Z, the Landsat 5 spacecraft experienced an attitude anomaly characterized by extreme gyro rates. The spacecraft proceeded to tumble out of control for some time until the FOT was able to stabilize the satellite attitude (positioning). At this point, the spacecraft is stable and the FOT is beginning to analyze the data from the anomaly.

triangle down June 22-24, 2009 – The Landsat Science Team meeting

The Landsat Science Team was held at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Center for Imaging Science in Rochester, New York. LDCM development was discussed, and status reports of Landsat 5 and 7 operations were presented. Read More...

triangle down April 2, 2009 – Free data downloads hit 500,000

On April 2, 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Project delivered its 500,000th free image for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009! A recent USGS policy change enabled Landsat data to be distributed at no charge via the internet. Prior to the policy change, the highest year of distribution was in FY2001 when approximately 25,000 scenes were delivered. This phenomenal increase in distribution comprises an estimated 95 TB of data downloaded by users. Although the USGS does not have detailed records since the mission's inception in 1972, there is good evidence that more data have been distributed in the last 6 months than in the entire first 36 years of the Landsat missions combined.

triangle down March 1, 2009 – Happy 25th Birthday, Landsat 5!

On March 1, 1984, Landsat 5 launched onboard a Delta 3920 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. With a design life of 3 years, Landsat 5 has far exceeded its planned mission and continues to provide high-quality data for research around the world. Read More...

triangle down February 9-13, 2009 – Landsat Technical Working Group (LTWG#18) Meeting

This year's Landsat Technical Working Group (LTWG#18) meeting was held in Maspalomas, Spain, February 9–13, 2009. The meeting was jointly organized by the USGS and NASA and was hosted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Spanish Space Agency Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA). Participants from 11 countries, including members of the USGS Landsat and Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) Projects, represented 14 international ground stations and discussed a wide range of technical topics.

Presentations included Landsat 5 (L5) and Landsat 7 (L7) mission statuses, which outlined recent L5 battery management improvements, the Landsat Project’s Web-enabled product distribution, the Global Land Survey 2005 and 2010 Projects, the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation initiative, and other technical items and future plans. With LDCM sensor and spacecraft development well underway, this was the primary topic of discussion. Related presentations included project and ground system status, ground system and downlink overview, data processing flow, and the Landsat Science Team. A new International Cooperator Landsat/LDCM Web portal was also introduced, as well as current and future data validation and exchange plans.

Each International Cooperator briefed the group on the technical status of their systems, provided information on the status of their new L5 Thematic Mapper Calibration Parameter File and Landsat Metadata Description Document metadata and browse implementations, and addressed the future satellite mission and ground system plans of their agencies.

Australia briefed the attendees on a recent reorganization and on the creation of their new National Earth Observation Group. The Japanese delegation presented data distribution status for the Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS) and its associated data node infrastructure. The German delegation presented information about several recent and future programs, including TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X, EnMap, and RapidEye. The Brazilian delegation presented the status of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) programs and a compelling briefing on the Satellite Monitoring of the Brazilian Amazon (PRODES and DETER Projects). ESA briefed the group on many programs in progress, including the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and their multi-mission architecture. The China Centre of Earth Observation and Digital Earth (CEODE) presented information about their new building planned for 2010 and extended an invitation to all participants for their 6th International Symposium on Digital Earth (September 9–12, 2009, in Beijing). Finally, the Thailand delegation capped the meeting with an interesting presentation on their recent and successful launch of the Thailand Earth Observation System (THEOS).

LTWG#18 participants
Figure 1. LTWG#18 participants

triangle down January 9, 2009 – USGS announcement: Opening the Landsat Archive

Electronic access to the entire USGS Landsat 7 archive, enabling users to download standard-format scenes at no charge, has been an amazing success, with over 225,000 scenes downloaded since October 1st. Previously acquired imagery from Landsat 1 through Landsat 5, is also now available for download at no charge using the same standard processing format. Processing parameters and other details about the products can be found at Previously offered USGS Landsat products with customer-defined options, including media, are no longer available.

Newly acquired Landsat 7 ETM+ SLC-off and Landsat 5 TM images with less than 40 percent cloud cover are automatically processed and made available for immediate download. Imagery with greater than 40 percent cloud cover can be processed upon request. Once the requested scenes are processed, an email notification is sent to the customer with instructions for downloading. These scenes will then become accessible to all users. Landsat data can be searched, downloaded, or requested from GloVis or EarthExplorer. High demand for this data may result in slow search performance and processing times, which typically range from 1-3 days for Landsat 7 ETM+ and some Landsat 5 TM data and 3-4 weeks for Landsat 1-5 MSS, Landsat 4 TM and some Landsat 5 TM data. Please contact Customer Service at with any comments or questions.

triangle down January 6-8, 2009 – The Landsat Science Team meeting

The Landsat Science Team meeting was held in Fort Collins, CO. In addition to status reports on LDCM development and Landsat 5 and 7 operations, the meeting focused on technical issues associated with future Landsat data products and requirements for future missions. Read More...

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