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Coronavirus delays push again launch of subsequent Landsat to September 2021 – Spaceflight Now

Artist’s illustration of the Landsat 9 satellite tv for pc in orbit. Credit score: NASA/GSFC

The launch of the subsequent Landsat land imaging mission — a joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey — has been delayed till round September 2021 after the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic slowed work on the spacecraft in Arizona, NASA officers stated.

The Landsat 9 satellite tv for pc is the subsequent in a sequence of land imaging missions launched since 1972, accumulating views from house of city sprawl, tropical deforestation, retreating glaciers, and adjustments in coral reefs, crops, and tectonic faults.

Beforehand scheduled for launch in April 2021, the Landsat 9 mission is now anticipated to launch in September 2021, based on Jacob Richmond, a spokesperson for NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“The Landsat 9 observatory integration is nicely underway, overcoming earlier spacecraft growth delays that had moved the launch date into 2021,” Richmond stated in response to questions from Spaceflight Now. “The pandemic has interfered with the effectivity of this work, inhibiting important mission workforce journey to the Northrop Grumman Area System facility in Gilbert, Arizona.”

NASA officers beforehand deliberate to launch the Landsat 9 satellite tv for pc in December 2020. The mission’s $885 million finances isn’t anticipated to be affected by the delays.

Northrop Grumman is constructing the Landsat 9 spacecraft for NASA and the USGS. The satellite tv for pc will weigh practically three tons when it launches, and can carry the Operational Land Imager 2 instrument provided by Ball Aerospace and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 payload constructed on the Goddard Area Flight Middle.

Dennis Andrucyk, director of the Goddard Area Flight Middle, stated in a digital assembly of the Maryland Area Enterprise Roundtable final month that “impacts” brought on by the coronavirus in “processing the spacecraft” would trigger a delay in Landsat 9’s launch date.

“In consequence, NASA is within the course of of creating a launch date in 2021 that matches inside the out there home windows of different prescheduled mission launches and likewise balances the persevering with danger of potential additional COVID-19-related delays,” Richmond stated. “NASA is now evaluating a potential launch date in September 2021, which is inside NASA’s baseline dedication to Congress.”

NASA’s dedication to Congress is to launch the Landsat 9 mission by November 2021. The house company is accountable for designing, constructing and launching Landsat satellites, whereas the USGS operates the satellites in orbit and manages the Landsat knowledge archive, which stretches again practically 50 years.

The OLI-2 and TIRS-2 devices have been delivered to Northrop Grumman final 12 months and put in on the Landsat 9 spacecraft to start electrical testing.

The Landsat eight satellite tv for pc launched from Vandenberg Air Power Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket Feb. 11, 2013. The Landsat 9 satellite tv for pc will use the identical kind of rocket. Credit score: United Launch Alliance

The Authorities Accountability Workplace, a watchdog company, reported earlier this 12 months that the Landsat 9 mission was “experiencing ongoing delays in spacecraft electronics fabrication, flight software program, and simulators that have an effect on system integration.”

The GAO stated Landsat 9 officers attributed the current delays to points with the efficiency of Northrop Grumman, the spacecraft contractor.

“The mission has met with contractor administration to debate its efficiency, together with issues in regards to the quantity and expertise of employees out there to finish remaining work,” the GAO stated.

The GAO’s report additionally recognized scheduling conflicts with different spacecraft below building at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Gilbert, Arizona. Northrop Grumman allotted take a look at tools to a different mission, which “compounded” delays with Landsat 9, officers wrote within the report.

The Landsat 9 satellite tv for pc relies on the Landsat eight mission, which launched in 2013 and continues working. Landsat 9 will work in live performance with different land imaging satellites, corresponding to Landsat eight and the European Sentinel 2 missions, to increase the continual world protection of land lots for the reason that launch of Landsat 1 in 1972.

The information archive catalogs adjustments in land cowl, water high quality, glacier stream, and different properties of Earth’s floor, based on NASA. The thermal infrared knowledge from Landsat satellites present info on irrigation and water utilization.

Designed for a five-year mission, Landsat 9 will blast off on high of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Power Base in California. Flying in its primary configuration with none strong rocket boosters, the Atlas 5 rocket will deploy Landsat 9 right into a 438-mile-high (705-kilometer) polar orbit.

Electronic mail the writer.

Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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