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NASA awards launch contracts for Sentinel 6A and Landsat 9

NASA has announced launch contract awards for the Landsat 9 and Sentinel 6A spacecraft. Image Credit NASA

NASA has awarded launch contracts for the Landsat 9 and Sentinel 6A spacecraft. Image Credit NASA

On Thursday, Oct. 19, NASA announced two new launch contracts for missions designed to study and monitor the Earth. The Landsat 9 and Sentinel 6A satellites are both scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base located in California.

The contract for the launch of the Landsat-9 mission has a targeted launch date of June 2021 (or as early as December 2020), was awarded to United Launch Service LLC, also known as United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado. The second contract, for the Sentinel-6A mission launch vehicle, was awarded to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

Landsat-9 is set to launch on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Complex 3E. The cost of the contract, which includes all of the launch services and other mission-related costs, is valued at approximately $153.8 million. The 401 configuration of the Atlas V uses a roughly four-meter payload fairing, uses no solid rocket motors, and has a lone RL10-C rocket engine in its Centaur upper stage.

The mission is a partnership between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor and manage land resources in order to sustain human life. The mission’s objective is to look at Earth’s weather, the impacts of climate change as well as how ecosystems and an array of other services.

The Landsat satellite system is the only U.S. system designed and operated to repeatedly make moderately scaled multi-spectral observations of the global land surface. Observations at this scale should provide data on both natural and human-induced changes to the landmass.

While Landsat-9 will be monitoring the land, Sentinel-6A will be surveying the great expanses of Earth’s oceans.

Sentinel-6A, also called Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS), is a partnership with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The mission provides ocean altimetry and topography measurements as well as long-term sea surface height data. The overall program was started in 1992 with the Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon mission and has continued with the Jason-1, Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2, and Jason-3 missions.

In addition to its topography observation goals, Sentinel-6A is being launched to collect high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). The mission will also use radio occultation sounding techniques in order to assess temperature changes within both the troposphere and stratosphere of the atmosphere which should also support increased abilities for numerical weather prediction.

The cost of the launch, which includes all of the launch services and other mission-related costs, is $97 million and is targeted to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E in November of 2020 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket.

NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing both flights.

Landsat 9’s Flight Project office is located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and management of the spacecraft is handled in a partnership with the Science Mission Directorate in partnership with the USGS in Washington, D.C. The Sentinel-6A program is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.




A native of the Greater Los Angeles area, Ocean McIntyre's writing is focused primarily on science (STEM and STEAM) education and public outreach. McIntyre is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador as well as holding memberships with The Planetary Society, Los Angeles Astronomical Society, and is a founding member of McIntyre is currently studying astrophysics and planetary science with additional interests in astrobiology, cosmology and directed energy propulsion technology. With SpaceFlight Insider seeking to expand the amount of science articles it produces, McIntyre was a welcomed addition to our growing team.

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