Landsat Next

A New and Revolutionary Landsat Mission

Landsat Next is on the horizon. The new Landsat mission, which is expected to launch in late 2030, will not only ensure the continuity of the longest space-based record of Earth’s land surface, but it will fundamentally transform the breadth and depth of actionable information freely available to end users. With two to three times the temporal, spatial, and spectral resolution, Landsat Next will build upon the Landsat legacy of observing, managing, and adapting to change on Earth and provide expanded capabilities to support evolving and emerging applications in land, water, and climate science.

Video credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Landsat Next represents a quantum leap forward in measurement capabilities. The enhanced temporal and spatial resolution of the new 26-band superspectral Landsat Next constellation will enhance existing Landsat applications and unlock new applications that support water quality and aquatic health assessments (e.g., harmful algal blooms), crop production and soil conservation (e.g., crop residues and non-photosynthetic vegetation), forest management and monitoring (e.g., photosynthetic bioindicators), climate and snow dynamics research (e.g., snow grain size and albedo), and mineral mapping based on thermal emissivity. Landsat Next will also have a water vapor band that will provide for atmospheric correction without ancillary data from other satellites.

Landsat Next graphic for quick facts


Landsat Next will continue the Landsat program’s decades-long data record of spaceborne multispectral imagery, which affords global, synoptic, and repetitive coverage of Earth’s land surfaces at a scale where natural and human-induced changes can be detected, differentiated, characterized, and monitored over time.

Landsat Next will be a constellation of three identical observatories sent into orbit on the same launch vehicle. The triplet observatories will be spaced 120 degrees apart at an orbital altitude of 653 kilometers (406 miles). Each satellite observatory will consist of a spacecraft and a Landsat Next Instrument Suite (LandIS), which will acquire all bands nearly simultaneously. The simultaneity will minimize illumination change between bands, facilitating both cloud screen detection and products derived from multispectral surface reflectance and thermal emission data (e.g., evapotranspiration).

Play Video about Landsat Next equatorial view of satellite constellation

Landsat Next observatories as viewed from near the equator. Video credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Play Video about Landsat Next polar view of satellites

Landsat Next observatories as viewed from above the North Pole. Video credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Landsat Next satisfies global Landsat data user needs by improving temporal, spatial, and spectral capabilities, all while maintaining Landsat data continuity and quality. The Landsat Next triplets will provide an improved collective 6-day temporal revisit, a significant upgrade from the 16-day repeat interval of Landsat 8 and Landsat 9. The temporal frequency will increase the probability of acquiring cloud-free scenes and enhance monitoring and management of dynamic and changing landscapes. Landsat Next will capture phenological signatures used for vegetation classification and modeling crop development, health, and yields; detect periodic disturbances due to harvesting and episodic insect and disease agents; assess near-continuous water use and evapotranspiration; provide early warnings about the onset of fires and harmful algal blooms; monitor public health during heat wave seasons; and track dynamics of snow and ice on both land and sea.

The improved temporal frequency of Landsat Next will increase the probability of acquiring cloud-free scenes and enhance monitoring and management of dynamic and changing landscapes. These two examples demonstrate rapidly changing landscapes. In Nevada, the city of Las Vegas has experienced considerable urbanization and Lake Mead water levels have dropped due to increased demand and drought. In Brazil, the state of Rondônia has undergone large-scale tropical deforestation largely as a result of unchecked cattle ranching and agricultural expansion.

Landsat Next will collect 26 bands—15 more bands than each of the two former Landsat missions. The LandIS on each observatory will acquire refined versions of the 11 Landsat “heritage” bands to maintain data continuity, five new bands with similar spatial and spectral characteristics to the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission to allow for improved data synergy and fusion, and 10 new spectral bands to support data user needs and emerging applications. All bands will have higher spatial resolutions than former Landsat missions, with ground sample distances of 10 to 20 meters for visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared bands and 60 meters for atmospheric and thermal infrared bands.

Landsat Next will preserve the robust radiometric and geometric accuracy requirements associated with the Landsat program to ensure long-term data consistency and facilitate critical time-series analyses. The radiometric accuracy will be comparable to the signal-to-noise ratios and noise equivalent differential temperatures of Landsat 8 and Landsat 9. The geometric accuracy of previous Landsat missions will match the finer ground sample distances of Landsat Next. Rigorous radiometric and geometric calibration and validation methods will be employed to provide band-to-band and image-to-image registration. Top of atmosphere and surface reflectance data products will be comparable with those from previous Landsat missions.

Why Landsat Next?

Landsat Next will help us live sustainably on Earth. Landsat Next will propel the next half century of scientific discovery and informed decision making. The Landsat program has provided a global perspective of Earth at a management-scale resolution since 1972. These long-term observations have become more valuable as the population continues to rise and there are increased pressures on essential resources such as food, water, housing, and energy. Tracking global environmental change and natural resources is important for sustaining human needs in the future.

Landsat Next will provide continuity, improve understanding, and support decision making. Landsat Next will continue to provide an unbiased, unbroken, and continuous record of changes on Earth that is freely available for everyone to use. A half century record of Landsat data is proving more valuable with time, as it allows the long-term characterization of environmental changes. Harmonization of Landsat Next data with similar observatories (e.g., Sentinel-2), improving data access through cloud storage and computing, and developing new algorithms will offer the ability for more rapid analyses and decision making.

Landsat Next will result in breakthrough science. New measurements will allow Landsat data users to identify features and patterns that were missed in previous Landsat images due to insufficient temporal, spatial, or spectral resolutions. This may include events that lasted for a very short time (e.g., flood, harvest, snow/ice), features too small to detect (e.g., farm field, deforestation, urban structures), or objects with indistinguishable spectral attributes (e.g., land plants and algal pigments). These scientific discoveries are led by developments in engineering and technology that were not previously available and reflect the overall evolution and improvement in imaging capabilities.

Landsat Next and the Sustainable Land Imaging Program

The Landsat program, jointly administered by NASA and the DOI/USGS, consists of a series of civilian Earth-observing satellite missions. Initiated in 1972 to map, assess, monitor, and manage the Earth’s natural resources, the Landsat program has provided an unbiased and unparalleled record of the planet and its changing conditions for more than half of a century. NASA is responsible for developing the space segment, launch and on-orbit check-out, and the DOI/USGS is responsible for developing the ground segment, flight and ground system operations, and data archiving and distribution.

User needs, mission architecture, and mission requirements for Landsat Next were developed under the Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) Program, a partnership between NASA and the DOI. The SLI Program is intended to meet the nation’s growing needs for a wide range of government, commercial, and international land imaging data and services. It also includes the development of international partnerships, cross-calibration and interoperability of complementary Earth-observing systems, and investment in the technology needed to ensure that state-of-the-art systems will meet evolving user needs.

The Landsat program has continued to provide essential data which has been used to map land use and land cover, assist with agricultural production, manage and monitor ecosystems and natural resources, assist urban planning, and support numerous other societal benefits. According to a report by the USGS, Economic Valuation of Landsat Imagery, the Landsat program provided domestic and international users an estimated $3.45 billion in benefits in 2017, with users in the United States accounting for $2.06 billion of those benefits. Much of the societal value of Landsat data stems from the free and open data policy that allows users to access imagery and data products for important Earth-based research and analysis.

Report cover for Economic Valuation of Landsat Imagery.
USGS Open-File Report 2019-1112: Economic Valuation of Landsat Imagery.
Economic benefits of Landsat. In 2011, there was an estimated $2.19 billion in benefits. In 2017, there was an estimated $3.45 billion in benefits.
Estimated economic benefits of the Landsat program for 2011 and 2017. Data reported in USGS Open-File Report 2019-1112: Economic Valuation of Landsat Imagery.

The Landsat program has been the cornerstone of global land imaging and civilian Earth observation for more than fifty years. By supplying an unprecedented record of global land cover status and change, Landsat is a crucial national asset which has made and continues to make critical contributions to economic, environmental, and national security interests.

According to the 2014 National Science and Technology Council report, Landsat has been ranked as a top Earth observation system in terms of societal benefits provided, along with GPS and weather satellites. Landsat is the most widely used land remote sensing data source within federal civil agencies. Landsat contributes to annual productivity savings because it is more efficient than other technologies in terms of accomplishing decision support requirements. Commercial providers rely on the rigorous calibration of Landsat to build and improve products. Lastly, Landsat has been an essential data source for a wide range of Earth science research, and it is the most cited Earth-observation dataset within the scientific literature (Wulder et al., 2022).

1. USDA Risk Management Agency
over $100 million
2. U.S. Government Mapping
over $100 million
3. Monitoring Consumptive Agricultural Water Use
$20 - $80 million
4. Monitoring Global Security
$70 million
5. Landsat Support for Fire Management
$28 - $30 million
6. Forest Fragmentation Detection
over $5 million
7. Forest Change Detection
over $5 million
8. World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates
over $3 - $5 million
9. Vineyard Management and Water Conservation
$3 - $5 million/year
10. Flood Mitigation Mapping
over $4.5 million
11. National Agricultural Commodities Mapping
over $4 million
12. Waterfowl Habitat Mapping and Monitoring
$1.9 million/year
13. Coastal Change Analysis Program
$1.5 million
14. Forest Health Monitoring
$1.25 million
15. NGA Global Shoreline
over $90 million (one time)
16. Wildfire Risk Assessment
$25 - $50 million (one time)
Horizontal bar chart depicting the number of published in articles related to various Earth observing satellite missions, as reported in Google Scholar and Web of Science.
The scientific contribution of Landsat, as measured by the number of published scholarly works, is larger than any other Earth-observing satellite program. Image credit: Wulder et al., 2022.
Horizontal bar chart depicting the number of published in articles related to different Landsat application areas, as reported in Web of Science.
Number of document records for published works in Web of Science for different Landsat application areas. Image credit: Wulder et al., 2022.

The value of the Landsat program will be magnified with the expanded capabilities of Landsat Next. The new mission will continue to add to the indispensable and extensive data record. It will provide land and ecosystem change data and trending information that would otherwise not be available. With the revolutionary temporal, spectral, and spatial enhancements, Landsat Next will bestow new capabilities to support evolving and emerging applications, and it will assist land managers and policymakers in making more informed decisions about global, regional, and local natural resources and the environment.