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ULA to Launch Landsat 9 Satellite on Monday from Vandenberg

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 25, 2021
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Landsat 9 (Credit: NASA)

VANDERBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (ULA Mission Update) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the Landsat 9 mission for NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The mission is planned to lift off on Mon., Sept. 27 at 11:11 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. 

Live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 10:30 a.m. PDT on Sept. 27 and will broadcast live on NASA TV. Live launch updates and webcast available at:

Today’s forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. A weather system approaching from the northwest early next week will bring seasonal summertime conditions for Vandenberg on Monday with a marine layer of low stratus clouds and fog. The launch time forecast includes complete overcast conditions of low-level clouds at 500 feet, visibility of 3-5 miles in fog, northwesterly winds gusting to 16 knots and a temperature near 61 degrees F.

If the launch moves to the backup opportunity on Tuesday for some reason, there is a 60 percent chance of meeting the weather rules due to ground winds. 

Mission Overview

For nearly 50 years, Landsat satellites have provided the longest continuous global record of Earth’s changing landscapes. With Landsat 9, the mission will continue collecting essential science-quality data on Earth’s forests, farms, cities and freshwater regions. Landsat 9 will join Landsat 8 in orbit, and the two satellites together will collect images of our planet’s landscapes and coastal regions every eight days. Landsat is the only U.S. satellite system designed and operated to repeatedly observe the global land surface at a moderate scale to show both natural and human-induced change.

Landsat 9 is a joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center manages the mission through launch and post launch checkout and the Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center manages the launch service. USGS operates the satellite and the mission data archive.

In addition to Landsat 9, this mission includes the Landsat 9 ESPA Flight System (EFS) which will deploy multiple CubeSats after Landsat 9 separation. The EFS is a U.S. Space Force activity to demonstrate the capability of integrating and delivering secondary payloads to orbit on an adapter ring.

There are four multi-manifest satellites sponsored by the Defense Innovation Unit, Air Force Research Laboratory, Missile Defense Agency and NASA. The NASA CubeSats include the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) from the University of Colorado at Boulder which will measure how near-ultraviolet light from a host star changes when an exoplanet passes in front of it and through a planet’s atmosphere. The Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector (CuPID) from Boston University will measure X-rays emitted when solar wind plasma collides with neutral atoms in Earth’s atmosphere.

Atlas V Booster

The booster is 12.5 ft (3.8 m) in diameter and 106.5 ft (32.5 m) in length. The booster’s tanks are structurally rigid and constructed of isogrid aluminum barrels, spun-formed aluminum domes and intertank skirts. Booster propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system (a single engine with two thrust chambers). The RD-180 burns RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1 or highly purified kerosene) and liquid oxygen and delivers 860,200 lbs (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust at sea level. The Centaur avionics system, provides guidance, flight control and vehicle sequencing functions during the booster and Centaur phases of flight.


The Centaur second stage is 10 ft (3 m) in diameter and 41.5 ft (12.6 m) in length. Its propellant tanks are pressure-stabilized and constructed of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. Centaur is a cryogenic vehicle, fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powered by an RL10C-1 engine producing 22,900 lbs (101.8 kilo-Newtons) of thrust. The cryogenic tanks are insulated with a combination of helium-purged blankets, radiation shields and spray-on foam insulation (SOFI). The Centaur forward adapter (CFA) provides structural mountings for the fault-tolerant avionics system and structural and electrical interfaces with the spacecraft.

Payload Fairing (PLF)

The spacecraft is encapsulated in the 14-ft (4-m) diameter extra extended payload fairing (XEPF). The XEPF is a bisector (two-piece shell) fairing consisting of aluminum skin/stringer construction with vertical split-line longerons. The vehicle’s height with the PLF is approximately 194 ft (59.1 m).