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Next Landsat shipped to Vandenberg for launch

Posted: December 20, 2012

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Trucking across the southwestern United States, the next civilian remote-sensing spacecraft in a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey arrived Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base for launch in February.

Credit: NASA/Jerry Nagy
A convoy escorting the Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite, or LDCM, traveled from the craft's factory in Gilbert, Arizona, to the launch base in California.

Technicians will spend the next several weeks performing final preps on the LDCM before it is transferred to the launch pad and mounted atop the Atlas 5 rocket that will carry the environmental satellite into orbit Feb. 11.

Built by Orbital Sciences Corp., LDCM will perform the mission described in its name -- continue the data records produced by the Landsat series of the satellites dating back to 1972.

"LDCM builds on and strengthens a key American resource: a decades-long, unbroken Landsat-gathered record of our planet's natural resources, particularly its food, water and forests," said Jim Irons, Landsat project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

A half-dozen of the craft have been put into service over the past four decades, and LDCM will replace the long-lived Landsat 5 when it is declared operational.

The shipping container holding LDCM was unloaded into the West High Bay airlock where the outside of the container was cleaned in preparation for opening Thursday. Credit: NASA/Jerry Nagy
LDCM was shipped to Vandenberg assembled and nearly ready to fly. A Comprehensive Performance Test will be performed on Dec. 27, followed by the loading of maneuvering fuel on Jan. 3. Cleaning of the satellite will be completed before final inspections on Jan. 6 and closeouts on Jan. 11. The two halves of the rocket's nose cone will be brought together to encapsulate the spacecraft on Jan. 23 in preparation for delivery of the payload to the Space Launch Complex 3-East pad on Jan. 25.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket has been on the pad since October, undergoing its own set of pre-flight checkouts. This will be NASA's first California launch of the Atlas 5.

Liftoff is planned for Feb. 11 at 10:04 a.m. local time (1:04 p.m. EST; 1804 GMT). The day's launch window extends 44 minutes to 10:48 a.m. local.

The Atlas 5 will fly in its basic two-stage configuration, known as the 401 version, with a four-meter payload fairing, no strap-on solid boosters and a single-engine Centaur to haul the three-ton satellite into a Sun-synchronous orbit.