Spaceflight Insider

US Geological Survey’s Landsat 9 satellite progressing toward 2020 launch

Orbital ATK Landsat 9 Artist Render Image Credit Orbital ATK

Image Credit: Orbital ATK

The U.S. Geological Survey‘s Landsat 9 spacecraft is making steady progress toward its planned launch in December of 2020. If everything goes as currently planned, the satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The contract to produce the spacecraft was awarded in 2016 and will mark the continuation of a program that can trace its lineage back 45 years.

When it launches, Landsat 9 will map the terrain far below its position in Sun-synchronous orbit from which it will collect data and space-based imagery. Data will be used by officials for land-management, agricultural purposes, emergency response (to include disaster relief), and mapping.

“As the fourth Landsat satellite built by Orbital ATK, Landsat 9 aptly demonstrates the company’s expertise in delivering high-quality land imaging satellites that exceed the expectations of our customers,” said Steve Krein, Vice President of Science and Environmental Programs at Orbital ATK, via a release issued by the company. “Based on NASA’s positive assessment of our progress, we are well positioned to build on our legacy of Landsat success and execute on the next phase of development.”

Orbital ATK was awarded the contract to produce the Landsat 9 spacecraft in October of 2016. The Dulles, Virginia-based company is both designing and constructing the satellite, which will incorporate instruments provided by NASA and the USGS.

Landsat 9 recently underwent, and successfully completed, its preliminary design review, which was carried out between July 18 and July 20 at Orbital ATK’s facilities in Gilbert, Arizona. The test checked out all of the spacecraft’s system and schedule requirements.

With Landsat 9, the overall length of the Landsat Program will reach half a century. Orbital ATK also built Landsat 8, 5, and 4, which were launched in 2013, 1984, and 1982, respectively.

Landsat 9 is based on the LEOStar-3 satellite bus platform, which was also used for Landsat 8 and is what the ICESat-2 and JPSS-2 spacecraft being developed for NASA will use.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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