Press Release

NASA and USGS Recognize Landsat 8 Satellite Team for Innovations in Earth Observations

By SpaceRef Editor
November 19, 2014
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Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that NASA and the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have honored the team that built the United States’ most advanced land surface mapping satellite, Landsat 8, with the 2014 William T. Pecora Award for achievement in Earth remote sensing. The annual award was presented on November 18 in Denver at the 19th William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium.

The Landsat 8 team is a partnership between NASA and the USGS with strong contributions from industry and the academic community. The team included the Landsat 8 Project Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, which oversaw development and launch of the satellite, and the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, SD, which managed ground system development and assumed operations of the mission following in-orbit commissioning. For the satellite itself, Orbital designed, built and tested Landsat 8 under a contract from NASA’s Goddard Center at the company’s Gilbert, AZ manufacturing facility. The satellite’s Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) was built at NASA Goddard, and its Operational Land Imager (OLI) sensor was the responsibility of Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation. United Launch Alliance provided the Atlas V launch vehicle that delivered Landsat 8 into orbit. The Landsat science team of university and government scientists provided scientific and technical input to a wide range of mission activities.

The government and industry team that built and now operates Landsat 8, the latest in the Landsat series of satellites, was also acknowledged for their contributions to study of Earth’s land surface and coastal regions. Landsat 8, known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) when launched in February 2013, provides frequent global medium-resolution data for science and applications.

The Landsat 8 team met the challenge of continuing and advancing Landsat’s four-decade legacy of Earth observations. The OLI sensor on Landsat 8 is a substantial technical advancement over the Thematic Mapper sensors flown since 1982 on Landsat 4, 5 and 7. In addition, the TIRS instrument utilizes a two-band thermal infrared sensor to more effectively address atmospheric contamination in the thermal infrared spectrum. Mission performance has exceeded expectations, providing more imagery, higher quality measurements and new capabilities over previous missions.

The Pecora Award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of a former USGS director and Interior Undersecretary, William T. Pecora, who was influential in the establishment of the Landsat satellite program, which created the longest continuous record of Earth’s land areas spanning a period of more than 40 years. This is the second time in the last 15 years that an Orbital-built remote-sensing satellite has been recognized with the Pecora Award. The company’s OrbView-2/SeaStar spacecraft received the award in 1999.

“We are incredibly proud of our dedicated team who designed, built and tested this remarkable satellite observatory,” said Daren Iverson, Orbital’s Landsat 8 Program Manager. “It has been an extraordinary experience to be part of this program and to partner with our NASA and USGS customers. In the future, we hope to continue our critical role in their mission by building the next generation of Landsat spacecraft.”

With an anticipated service life of five years, Landsat 8 is based on Orbital’s flight-proven LEOStar-3 standard modular spacecraft platform that reduces assembly and test-cycle times. This low-Earth orbit spacecraft has served as the platform for several other highly successful NASA-sponsored Earth and space science missions, such as the Swift and Fermi astrophysics satellites.

About Orbital

Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides research rocket and satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at Follow the company on Twitter @OrbitalSciences.

SpaceRef staff editor.