Mission Background

When Landsat-1 was launched in 1972, it was the first Earth observation satellite ever made to monitor the Earth's land. At the time, satellites had mostly been used to provide weather forecasting services, and Landsat-1 was based on the Nimbus 7 meteorological satellite platform.

Since then, Landsat satellites have provided EO data to support work in agriculture, geology, forestry, education, mapping, emergency response and disaster relief, as well as providing a long-term record of natural and human-induced changes to the Earth.

Landsat's Global Survey Mission is to establish and execute a data acquisition strategy that ensures repetitive acquisition of observations over the Earth's land mass, coastal boundaries, and coral reefs and consists of a series of eight satellites, the first seven of which are presented herein. As technological capabilities improved, instruments on board consecutive missions changed. Subsequently, three 'families' of Landsat satellites have been distinguished based on sensor and platform characteristics.


The design of Landsats 1, 2, and 3 were modified Nimbus meteorological satellites.

  • Weight: approximately 953 kg
  • Overall height: 3 m
  • Diameter: 1.5 m
  • Solar array paddles extend out to a total of 4 m
  • 3-axis stabilized using 4 wheels to +/-0.7° attitude control
  • Twin solar array paddles (single-axis articulation)
  • S-Band and Very High Frequency (VHF) communications
  • Hydrazine propulsion system with 3 thrusters

Landsat Resources