"The Landsat data will allow us to understand why many natural land change processes are occurring, and what those changes and processes mean for life on land and in coastal areas," said mission program executive David Jarrett, of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "LDCM's land cover observations are critical in maintaining our ability to monitor and understand global change."
Continuing a 40-year Project The last Landsat spacecraft to launch before today was Landsat 7, which blasted off in April 1999. Landsat 7 is the only other satellite in the program that's currently operational. (Landsat 5 recently retired after more than 28 years of service.)
Landsat orbits allow full global coverage every 16 days, but the teamwork of Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 will bring that down to a complete view of the planet every eight days, researchers said.
The partnership between the two satellites could last for several years, since Landsat 7 has enough fuel to stay in an operational orbit through 2016.
For its part, Landsat 8 has enough fuel for about a decade of operations, researchers said. The Landsat 8 spacecraft and the OLI instrument have design lives of five years, and TIRS was built to last at least three years.