WASHINGTON — The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has suspended imaging operations for the Landsat 5 satellite as engineers mount a 90-day effort to restore satellite-to-ground transmissions for the 27-year-old spacecraft, the agency announced Nov. 18.

The Landsat flight operations team has been tracking for several months the fluctuating performance of a key electronic component, an amplifier essential for transmitting Landsat 5 imagery to ground receiving stations around the world.

Earlier in November, Landsat 5 took a turn for the worse. “Over the 10 days, problems with the amplifier have led to drastically reduced image download capabilities, a sign of impending failure,” the USGS said in a press release.

Instead of continuing to operate Landsat 5 until the amplifier fails completely, the USGS said it decided to suspend imaging activities for 90 days “in order to explore every possible option for restoring satellite-to-ground image transmissions.”

The United States, which has been collecting Landsat imagery without interruption since the program’s first satellite was launched in 1972, has one other working Landsat spacecraft in orbit, the 12.5-year-old Landsat 7. Built to last five years, Landsat 7 has been operating since 2003 without a working scan line corrector, a glitch that degrades the quality of the satellite’s imagery.

A replacement craft, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is under construction at NASA and scheduled to launch in 2013.



For Landsat Observations, Data Continuity Remains Key


Brian Berger is editor in chief of SpaceNews.com and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined SpaceNews.com in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...