NASA plans to launch climate change-tracking Landsat 9 satellite

NASA plans to launch one of its most high-tech Earth observation satellites to date Monday from California to help track climate events that range from California wildfires to deforestation of the Amazon.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to carry the 5,900-pound spacecraft into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 2:11 p.m. EDT.

Landsat 9 is the ninth in a series that NASA began to launch in 1972, marking a five-decade partnership between the space agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.

It is intended to provide a continuous record of climate change, urban area growth, glacial melt, cropland health and other phenomena.

“Landsat is our longest-lived remote sensing program,” Jeff Masek, project scientist at NASA’s Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a press conference Friday.

“Since 1972, it has amassed over 9 million multispectral images of Earth’s land in coastal regions.”

The new Landsat satellite will join sister satellite Landsat 8 in orbit “to continue collecting images from across the planet to monitor essential resources including crops, irrigation water and forests,” Masek said.

Landsat 9, which cost some $900 million, will complete surveys of important coastal areas every eight days at a height of 438 miles — far above the International Space Station.

The near-polar orbit will be synchronized with the sun’s daylight to ensure well-illuminated imagery, Masek said.

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