The long awaited Landsat 8 satellite was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA on Monday 11 February 2013 using the Atlas-V 401 rocket launch vehicle. Landsat 8 or the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) as it is currently known is a continuity mission in the series of Landsat satellites that was designed to succeed Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 missions. The Landsat series of satellites have an unparalleled record of land imaging which dates back to 1972. Landsat's 40 year history is monitoring land, water and vegetation applications uniquely places the Landsat archive in a class of its own since it possesses an unrivalled continuous record of the earth's dynamics.
Landsat 8 is comprised of two instruments on-board the Operational Land Imager and the Thermal Infrared Sensor. The satellite possesses a panchromatic band with a spatial resolution of 15m, visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands with a spatial resolution of 30m and two thermal bands with a spatial resolution of 100m. Landsat 8 has a scene size of 185-km-cross-track-by-180-km-along-track. The Operational Land Imager has two new spectral bands, one designed to detect cirrus clouds and the second band designed for coastal zone measurements. The Thermal Infrared Sensor has two narrow spectral bands in the thermal region previously occupied by one wide spectral band on Landsat 4–7. The design specification for Landsat 8 will ensure a greater chance to acquire cloud-free scenes.
Landsat 8 was designed to serve a gamut of applications such as land use planning and monitoring, urban growth monitoring, disaster management, water resource monitoring, climate, carbon cycling and sequestration, ecosystems function and services, agricultural monitoring, hydrological cycle and other terrestrial processes. The South African community will also utilize Landsat 8 in resource management, geological mapping, vegetation studies, regional planning, mapping, and environmental change studies. Landsat 8 data will be freely available thanks to the United States Geological Surveys and NASA's free and open data policy. SANSA will be directly receiving Landsat 8 at its ground receiving station at Hartebeeshoek and will disseminate this data throughout the Southern African region.
Landsat 8 will widen SANSA's range of satellite products and will increase the scope for earth observation experts to develop operational remote sensing services of socio-economic benefit. LDCM (Landsat 8) will be declared for normal operation after successfully undergoing Post-Launch Assessment Review and the Operational Readiness Review.