The launch of Landsat 9 is an exciting milestone for the almost-50-year-old program – with more to come! The Landsat story will continue in the next decade with Landsat Next, the newest member of the Landsat family.
The Landsat Next mission is currently in its early phase, with mission designers considering data users’ requests. A wide range of satellite and instrument types are under consideration, but they all have two things in common: They will continue the existing decades-long data record, and they will measure more than twice as many spectral bands as Landsats 8 and 9.
“Spectral bands” refers to the wavelengths of light that Landsat instruments measure. When an instrument measures a range of wavelengths, it provides details about different features on the ground. For example, the visible light section of Landsat 9’s spectral range provides information about dust and smoke in the air and coral in the ocean, while longer infrared wavelengths capture clouds, vegetation health, crop water use and active fires.
Landsats 8 and 9 measure 11 spectral bands from the visible to thermal infrared wavelengths. The goal for Landsat Next is to measure up to 25 spectral bands, unlocking new applications for water quality, plant stress, snow cover, soil health and more.
Landsat Next’s upcoming project design steps are to complete studies on the best mission, instrument and data storage designs to achieve mission goals. The mission is on target to launch in 2029/2030.