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Landsat 8

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Landsat 8
Landsat Data Continuity Mission Observatory testing.jpg
Landsat 8 during ground testing
Mission typeEarth imaging
OperatorNASA / USGS
COSPAR ID2013-008A
SATCAT №39084
Mission duration5-10 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerOrbital Sciences (prime)
Ball Aerospace (OLI)
Launch mass2,623 kilograms (5,783 lb)
Dry mass1,512 kilograms (3,333 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date11 February 2013, 18:02 UTC
RocketAtlas V 401 AV-035
Launch siteVandenberg SLC-3E
ContractorUnited Launch Alliance
Entered service30 May 2013
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Semi-major axis7,073.51 kilometres (4,395.28 mi)[1]
Perigee702 kilometres (436 mi)[1]
Apogee703 kilometres (437 mi)[1]
Inclination98.20 degrees[1]
Period98.83 minutes[1]
Epoch3 October 2013, 20:24:54 UTC[1]

Landsat 8 is an American Earth observation satellite launched on February 11, 2013. It is the eighth satellite in the Landsat program; the seventh to reach orbit successfully. Originally called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), it is a collaboration between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). NASA Goddard Space Flight Center provided development, mission systems engineering, and acquisition of the launch vehicle while the USGS provided for development of the ground systems and will conduct on-going mission operations.

The satellite was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, who served as prime contractor for the mission. The spacecraft's instruments were constructed by Ball Aerospace and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and its launch was contracted to United Launch Alliance. During the first 108 days in orbit, LDCM underwent checkout and verification by NASA and on 30 May 2013 operations were transferred from NASA to the USGS when LDCM was officially renamed to Landsat 8.

NASA's Earth Observing Fleet (including Landsat 8).


Landsat 8 launches atop an Atlas V

The satellite was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 carrier rocket with an Extended Payload Fairing. The launch took place at 18:02 UTC (10:02 PST) on 11 February 2013, from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Seventy eight minutes and thirty seconds later, the spacecraft separated from the upper stage of its carrier rocket, successfully completing the launch.

Landsat 8 joins Landsat 7 on-orbit, providing increased coverage of the Earth's surface.


The original Landsat 8 plans called for NASA to purchase data meeting Landsat 8 specifications from a commercially owned and operated satellite system; however, after an evaluation of proposals received from industry, NASA cancelled the Request for Proposals in September 2003. In August 2004, a memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed Federal agencies to place Landsat-type sensors on theNational Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) platform. Following an evaluation of the technical complexity of this task, the strategy was adjusted and on December 23, 2005, the OSTP issued a memorandum directing NASA to implement the Landsat 8 in the form of a free-flyer spacecraft carrying an instrument referred to as the Operational Land Imager (OLI). In December 2009, a decision was made to add a thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) to the mission payload.

First images from the spacecraft were collected on March 18, 2013.

Mission Overview

With Landsat 5 retiring in early 2013, leaving Landsat 7 as the only on-orbit Landsat program satellite, Landsat 8 will ensure the continued acquisition and availability of Landsat data utilizing a two-sensor payload, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS). Respectively, these two instruments will collect image data for nine shortwave bands and two longwave thermal bands. The satellite has been developed with a 5.25 years mission design life but has enough fuel on board to provide for upwards of ten years of operations.

Landsat 8 consists of three key mission and science objectives:

  • Collect and archive medium resolution (30-meter spatial resolution) multispectral image data affording seasonal coverage of the global landmasses for a period of no less than 5 years;
  • Ensure that Landsat 8 data are sufficiently consistent with data from the earlier Landsat missions in terms of acquisition geometry, calibration, coverage characteristics, spectral characteristics, output product quality, and data availability to permit studies of landcover and land-use change over time;
  • Distribute Landsat 8 data products to the general public on a nondiscriminatory basis at no cost to the user.[11]

Technical Details

First image from Landsat 8. The area is Fort Collins, Colorado, USA and the image is shown in natural color using the Operational Land Imager (OLI) spectral bands 2 (blue), 3 (green), and 4 (red).
First image from Landsat 8. The area is Fort Collins, Colorado, USA and the image is from the Operational Land Imager (OLI) spectral bands 3 (green), 5 (near infrared), and 7 (short wave infrared 2) displayed as blue, green and red, respectively.

Providing moderate-resolution imagery, from 15 meters to 100 meters, of Earth’s land surface and polar regions, Landsat 8 will operate in the visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared spectrums. Landsat 8 will capture approximately 400 scenes a day, an increase from the 250 scenes a day on Landsat 7. The OLI and TIRS sensors will see improved signal to noise (SNR) radiometric performance, enabling 12-bit quantization of data allowing for more bits for better land-cover characterization.

Planned parameters for Landsat 8 standard products 

  • Product type: Level 1T (terrain corrected)
  • Output format: GeoTIFF
  • Pixel size: 15 meters/30 meters/100 meters (panchromatic/multispectral/thermal)
  • Map projection: UTM (Polar Stereographic for Antarctica)
  • Datum: WGS 84
  • Orientation: North-up (map)
  • Resampling: Cubic convolution
  • Accuracy:
    • OLI: 12 meters circular error, 90-percent confidence
    • TIRS: 41 meters circular error, 90-percent confidence


The Landsat 8 spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, under contract to NASA, and uses Orbital's standard LEOStar-3 satellite bus. Orbital was responsible for the design and manufacture of the Landsat 8 spacecraft bus, the integration of the customer-furnished payload instruments, and full observatory testing, including environmental and EMI/EMC. The spacecraft supplies power, orbit and attitude control, communications, and data storage for OLI and TIRS.

All components, except for the propulsion module, are mounted on the exterior of the primary structure. A single deployable solar array generates power for the spacecraft components and charges the spacecraft’s 125 amp-hour nickel-hydrogen (Ni-H2) battery. A 3.14-terabit solid state data recorder provides data storage aboard the spacecraft and an X-band antenna transmits OLI and TIRS data either in real time or played back from the data recorder. The OLI and TIRS are mounted on an optical bench at the forward end of the spacecraft.

Operational Land Imager

Operation Land Imager Design

Landsat 8's Operational Land Imager (OLI) improves on past Landsat sensors and was built, under contract to NASA, by Ball Aerospace. OLI uses a technological approach demonstrated by the Advanced Land Imager sensor flown on NASA’s experimental EO-1 satellite. The OLI instrument uses a pushbroom sensor instead of whiskbroom sensors that were utilized on earlier Landsat satellites. The pushbroom sensor aligns the imaging detector arrays along Landsat 8's focal plane allowing it to view across the entire swath, 115 miles (185 kilometers) cross-track field of view, as opposed to sweeping across the field of view. With over 7,000 detectors per spectral band, the pushbroom design results in increased sensitivity, fewer moving parts, and improved land surface information.

OLI collects data from nine spectral bands. Seven of the nine bands are consistent with theThematic Mapper (TM) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensors found on earlier Landsat satellites, providing for compatibility with the historical Landsat data, while also improving measurement capabilities. Two new spectral bands, a deep blue coastal / aerosol band and a shortwave-infrared cirrus band, will be collected, allowing scientists to measure water quality and improve detection of high, thin clouds.


OLI Spectral Bands 

Spectral BandWavelengthResolution
Band 1 - Coastal / Aerosol0.433 - 0.453 µm30 m
Band 2 - Blue0.450 - 0.515 µm30 m
Band 3 - Green0.525 - 0.600 µm30 m
Band 4 - Red0.630 - 0.680 µm30 m
Band 5 - Near Infrared0.845 - 0.885 µm30 m
Band 6 - Short Wavelength Infrared1.560 - 1.660 µm30 m
Band 7 - Short Wavelength Infrared2.100 - 2.300 µm30 m
Band 8 - Panchromatic0.500 - 0.680 µm15 m
Band 9 - Cirrus1.360 - 1.390 µm30 m

Thermal InfraRed Sensor

The Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS), built by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, conducts thermal imaging and supports emerging applications such as evapotranspiration rate measurements for water management. The TIRS focal plane uses GaAs Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector arrays (known as QWIPs) for detecting the infrared radiation—a first for the Landsat program. The TIRS data will be registered to OLI data to create radiometrically, geometrically, and terrain-corrected 12-bit Landsat 8 data products.[9] Like OLI, TIRS employs a pushbroom sensor design in addition to a 185 kilometer cross-track field of view. Data for two long wavelength infrared bands will be collected with TIRS; however, TIRS only provides Landsat data continuity with one band—Band 10. With TIRS being a late addition to the Landsat 8 satellite, the design life requirement was relaxed in order to expedite development of the sensor. As such, TIRS only has a three-year design life.

TIRS Spectral Bands


Spectral BandWavelengthResolution
Band 10 - Long Wavelength Infrared10.30 - 11.30 µm100 m
Band 11 - Long Wavelength Infrared11.50 - 12.50 µm100 m