Backup Landsat Multi-Satellite Operations Center Opens in South Dakota

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Satellite Orbital Space Flight Operations Center setting up at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in South Dakota

The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center near Sioux Falls will soon host the first Landsat satellite mission operations center in the Nation outside of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It will provide a facility which can execute command and control for the most recent USGS/NASA Landsat satellites.

Hardware for the backup Landsat Multi-Satellite Operations Center (bLMOC) began arriving at EROS in mid-November of 2020. Once operational, the bLMOC will play an integral role in the operations of Landsat 9, scheduled to launch in September 2021 and continue the legacy of a land remote sensing program that has helped humankind study Earth since 1972.

Landsat 9

Illustration of Landsat 9 earth observation satellite.(Public domain.)

The primary Landsat Mission Operations Center (LMOC) is located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. The LMOC houses the Flight Operations Team (FOT) which  commands and controls the satellites and monitors the health and status of the satellites along with the ground system. Commands from flight operators correct a satellite’s orbit and dodge space debris when necessary. Operators also troubleshoot spacecraft and instrument anomalies.

The terminals, equipment racks, servers, firewalls and security equipment for the backup center at EROS will ultimately help to ensure important operations can be reliably executed, and mission safety maintained. The bLMOC will be used in emergency situations, such as when the Goddard LMOC is unable to handle the operations of the Landsat satellites. The backup will also be used periodically when maintenance is required at the primary facility.

“The significance of this facility isn’t lost on our team here at EROS,” said Brian Sauer, Landsat Engineering and Development Manager. “It’s a critical function to assure overall mission success. That’s a big deal for us.”

The primary and backup LMOC will be used initially to operate Landsat 9, scheduled for launch in September of this year. Soon after, operations for the eight-year-old Landsat 8 satellite will be added to LMOC and bLMOC duties.

NASA develops, builds, and launches Landsat satellites. The USGS develops and builds the ground system to acquire, process and archive data, and is responsible for mission operations.

EROS was chosen for the backup operations center for Landsat 9 because it is one of the primary data centers for the U.S. Department of the Interior and has the power and network infrastructure necessary to ensure redundancy in the operation of the high-valued Landsat satellites.

Network connectivity between Goddard and EROS now enables high-speed replication across the two mission operation centers, Sauer said. The bLMOC will be closely connected to the data reception station at EROS—one of Landsat’s five primary satellite ground stations worldwide.

For more information of Landsat missions and Landsat 9 in particular: https://www.usgs.gov/core-science-systems/nli/landsat/landsat-9