The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), Landsat 8, launched on February 11, 2013, is the eighth in the series of Landsat satellites. Since 1972, Landsat satellites have been observing and measuring Earth's continental and coastal landscapes at a scale where human impacts and natural changes can be monitored, differentiated, and characterized over time.
These data are archived, preserved and distributed by the Department of Interior U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and constitute the longest continuous record of the global land surface as seen from space. Landsat data are critically important for understanding and managing forests, farms, changes in urban landscapes, responding to wild fires, measuring the extent of flood and storm damage, examining wildlife habitat, measuring glacial retreat, mapping the extent of the Antarctic ice sheet, and much more. Landsat data have become a part of our nation’s infrastructure, and the data record constitutes a priceless archive that is open and freely available to everyone, everywhere.
NASA and the USGS worked together to develop LDCM/Landsat 8. NASA was responsible for building and launching the satellite and its sensors and USGS led the development of the ground system. On May 30, 2013, USGS assumed responsibility for satellite operations and for collecting, archiving and distributing data and the spacecraft name was officially changed from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) to Landsat 8.
The scientific objective of Landsat 8 is to collect data sufficiently consistent with data from the earlier Landsat missions to permit studies of land cover and land use change over multi-decadal periods. Consistency in acquisition geometry, calibration, coverage characteristics, spectral and spatial characteristics, output product quality, and data availability have made it possible for people to compare Landsat data from month to month and year to year, and Landsat 8 will continue this tradition by collecting multispectral digital image data providing seasonal coverage of the global land mass.
The Landsat 8 satellite observatory consists of a spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, carrying two-sensors. One sensor, the Operational Land Imager (OLI), collects image data for nine shortwave spectral bands over a 185 km swath with a 30 m spatial resolution for all bands, except a 15 m panchromatic band. The other sensor, the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), collects image data for two thermal bands with a 100 m resolution over a 185 km swath.
The Landsat 8 ground system sends daily commands to the observatory to schedule the coincident collection of OLI and TIRS data, and the transmission of the sensor data to a network of ground receiving stations. This network includes stations operated under the sponsorship of foreign governments. United States-operated stations forward the data on to the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center for processing, archiving, and distribution as part of the Landsat data archive. EROS distributes a standard data product that includes the data for all 11 spectral bands, both the OLI and TIRS bands, radiometrically corrected and co-registered to the UTM cartographic projection including correction for terrain effects. As with all of the Landsat data, EROS distributes digital Landsat 8 data products over the internet to the general public on request and at no cost to requestors.
The Landsat 8 mission extends the more than 40-year Landsat data archive with images sufficiently consistent with data from the earlier missions to allow long-term studies of regional and global land cover change.