NASA will be responsible for building the satellite and for on-orbit acceptance. It will be operated — in the same way as previous Landsats — by the US Geological Survey.
However, the news does not end the uncertainty that has followed the Landsat program for a decade. Landsat is the oldest Earth imaging program, dating back to 1972. The US government has been considering various private enterprise options for continuing the series.
It was not until December 2005, six years after the launch of Landsat-7, that the Office of Science and Technology Policy directed NASA to acquire a new spacecraft.
The OLI instrument will provide 15 metre panchromatic and 30 metre multi-spectral spatial resolution. The swath width will be 185 kilometres. Revisit time will be 16 days.
Ball Aerospace has contracted to deliver the instrument by September 2010.
The company is also believed to be competing for the contract to build the Landsat spacecraft bus, including its physical structure, attitude controls, power and communications modules. NASA officials are expected to make a decision on this contract in November.