Warming Temperatures are Driving Arctic Greening

When Arctic tundra greens, undergoing increased plant growth, it can impact wildlife species including reindeer and caribou. (Credits: Logan Berner/Northern Arizona University)

by Kate Ramsayer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — As Arctic summers warm, Earth’s northern landscapes are changing. Using satellite images to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth.

“The Arctic tundra is one of the coldest biomes on Earth, and it’s also one of the most rapidly warming,” said Logan Berner, a global change ecologist with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, who led the recent research. “This Arctic greening we see is really a bellwether of global climatic change – it’s a biome-scale response to rising air temperatures.”


Landsat 9 Remains on Schedule for Late 2021 Launch

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If all goes well, an Atlas V booster will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in November 2021 with the newest satellite in the U.S. government’s almost half century old Landsat Earth observation program.

The Landsat 9 remains on schedule and within its $885 million budget despite prime contractor Northrop Grumman experiencing ongoing delays in spacecraft electronics fabrication, flight software and systems integration, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).


U.S. Government Could Start Charging for Landsat Data

Landsat 8 (Credit: NASA)

The Trump Administration is considering re-imposing fees for Landsat images that were eliminated in 2008.

The US government is considering whether to charge for access to two widely used sources of remote-sensing imagery: the Landsat satellites operated by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and an aerial-survey programme run by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Officials at the Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, have asked a federal advisory committee to explore how putting a price on Landsat data might affect scientists and other users; the panel’s analysis is due later this year. And the USDA is contemplating a plan to institute fees for its data as early as 2019.

Some scientists who work with the data sets fear that changes in access could impair a wide range of research on the environment, conservation, agriculture and public health. “It would be just a huge setback,” says Thomas Loveland, a remote-sensing scientist who recently retired from the USGS in Sioux Falls, South Dakota….

Since the USGS made the data freely available, the rate at which users download it has jumped 100-fold. The images have enabled groundbreaking studies of changes in forests, surface water, and cities, among other topics. Searching Google Scholar for “Landsat” turns up nearly 100,000 papers published since 2008.

A USGS survey of Landsat users released in 2013 found that the free distribution of Landsat imagery generates more than US$2 billion of economic benefit annually — dwarfing the programme’s current annual budget of roughly $80 million. More than half of the nearly 13,500 survey respondents were academics, and the majority lived outside the United States.

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NASA Awards Landsat 9 Contract to Orbital ATK

orbital_ATK_logoWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a delivery order under the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III (Rapid III) contract to Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, known publicly as Orbital ATK, for the Landsat 9 spacecraft.

This contract is a 5-year, firm fixed-price delivery order for the purchase of the Landsat 9 spacecraft in the amount of $129.9 million. Orbital will design and fabricate the spacecraft, integrate the mission’s two government-furnished instruments, and conduct satellite-level testing, in-orbit satellite checkout, and mission operations support. The work will be performed at the contractor’s facilities and at the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.


Administration Opposes Senate Provisions on Commercial Crew, Europa Mission

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade

In a policy statement issued today, the White House took issue with two objectives near and dear to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): crippling NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and boosting its Space Launch System (SLS).

“The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for the Commercial Crew program, but has concerns about language that would seek to apply accounting requirements unsuitable for a firm, fixed-price acquisition, likely increasing the program’s cost and potentially delaying its schedule,” the Administration said in the statement, which covers the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015.


NASA Chooses General Dynamics for New Landsat Spacecraft


GILBERT, Ariz., April 22 – General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, has been selected by NASA to build the spacecraft for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM). Under the terms of the $116 million delivery order, General Dynamics will be responsible for the design and fabrication of the LDCM spacecraft bus, integration of the government furnished instruments, satellite-level testing, on-orbit satellite check-out and continuing on-orbit engineering support. General Dynamics will also provide a spacecraft/observatory simulator.

Landsat will obtain data and imagery for use in agriculture, education, business, science and government. The LDCM observatory will include evolutionary advances in technology and performance, providing 60 percent more Earth coverage data per day than the current Landsat observatory.

“General Dynamics is committed to supporting NASA, and understands the importance of the Landsat mission,” said David Shingledecker, vice president and general manager of integrated space systems for General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. “We look forward to working closely with the Goddard Space Flight Center for the continued success of the Landsat mission.”


Q1 Earnings: Boeing, Lockheed and General Dynamics Profits Rise

Three of America’s largest defense and aerospace companies all reported increased first quarter profits this week.

“Boeing Co., the world’s second biggest commercial airplane manufacturer, reported a better-than-expected 38 percent jump in its first-quarter earnings, as it improved efficiency and recorded more orders for its aircraft,” the Associated Press reported. “The results, announced Wednesday by the Chicago-based aerospace and defense company, sent Boeing shares to a two-month high.”

Lockheed Martin reported profits rose 6 percent on sales of space systems, missiles and information technology systems. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company reported profits of $730 million, or $1.75 per share, beating analysts’ expectations of $1.63 per share.

The nation’s fourth largest defense contractor, General Dynamics, reported a 32-percent increase in first quarter earnings. The company’s net profit was $572 million, or $1.43 per share, up from $434 million or $1.07 per share. Profits rose on increased sales in combat systems, marine systems and the aerospace segment.

NASA also announced that it has awarded General Dynamics a $116 million contract for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM). The company’s Advanced Information Systems unit will be responsible for designing and fabricating the LDCM spacecraft bus, integrating instruments, satellite-level testing, on-orbit satellite check-out, and continuing on-orbit engineering support. General Dynamics also will provide a spacecraft/observatory simulator.