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The Ball Aerospace Satellite on Landsat 9 Launches Successfully

The Ball Aerospace-built Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) sensor successfully launched today atop Landsat 9, the latest in a long line of NASA-USGS joint missions that have provided critical monitoring of significant natural and economic resources from orbit for over 50 years. Ball designed and built the cryocooler that will keep Landsat 9’s Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) cold to a freezing 40 Kelvin, in addition to the instrument. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center created and manufactured the TIRS-2 sensor, which detects thermal radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface.

Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace, said, “It is an honor to be a part of this important launch that will carry the Landsat mission into its next decade of existence and continue the longest-running Earth observation program. Our goal was to develop a technologically advanced solution that was both cost effective and capable of delivering highly-calibrated multispectral imagery and improved land surface information.”

The OLI-2 instrument is a push-broom sensor with a four-mirror telescope that makes measurements in the visible, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, similar to its predecessor OLI-1, which was launched in 2013. Landsat 9’s OLI-2 instrument will scan the Earth every 16 days, eight days behind Landsat 8. As a result, Landsat 9 is expected to collect up to 750 scenes per day, whereas Landsat 8 will add almost 1,500 new locations per day to the USGS Landsat archive.

The ball is already looking towards innovative technologies to enable future Landsat missions as Landsat 9 begins its mission. For example, it recently completed three studies for NASA that looked into the possibility of developing finely calibrated sensors that are smaller, lighter, and require less electricity.

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