Last week NASA revealed the first image from the new LDCM sensor, and it looks spectacular! The image includes our home in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, which also happens to be the home of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation where the OLI sensor and part of the TIRS sensor aboard LDCM were built. The image was collected at 1:40 p.m. EDT on March 18.
Jeff Pedelty, a NASA instrument scientist, observed, “It’s a really great day . . . It’s wonderful to see, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s a relief to know that this is going to work wonderfully in orbit.” Dennis Reuter, also a NASA instrument scientist, shared Pedelty’s enthusiasm. “To say it was exciting was an understatement,” said Reuter. “Wow! This is beautiful!” he wrote in an email, according to NASA. “Look at those amazing clouds! And the detail!”
The level of detail in these new images is largely due to the new push broom design of both the OLI and TIRS instruments. Previous Landsat instruments employed whisk broom sensors, which scan back and forth to cover a full swath on the ground. Push broom sensors collection data across the whole width of the imaged area simultaneously, allowing a longer dwell time for each pixel.
Before Landsat 8 data are ready for prime time, though, additional validation and other preparations are still necessary. Normal operations are scheduled to begin in late May, when control of the system will be transferred to the USGS. At that time, the system will be renamed Landsat 8.