ADVANCED LAND IMAGER PICKED FOR
FIRST NEW MILLENNIUM EARTH SCIENCE FLIGHT


[Artists rendering of EO-1 spacecraft]
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Landsat 7/EO-1 Comparison Table


NASA Headquarters
Office of Mission to Planet Earth
April 11, 1996

An advanced, lightweight scientific instrument designed to produce visible and short-wave infrared images of Earth's land surfaces has been selected as the focus of the first NASA New Millennium program mission dedicated to the agency's Mission to Planet Earth enterprise.

The capabilities of the Advanced Land Imager instrument to be demonstrated on the flight will serve multiple purposes, according to Dr. Charles Kennel, NASA Associate Administrator for Mission to Planet Earth.

The new instrument will demonstrate remote-sensing measurements of the Earth consistent with data collected since 1972 through the Landsat series of satellites, which is used by farmers, foresters, geologists, economists, city planners and others for resource monitoring and assessment. In addition, it will acquire data with finer spectral resolution, a capability long sought by many elements of the Earth observation data user community, and it will lay the technological groundwork for future land imaging instruments to be more compact and less costly.

"We looked at nearly a dozen different mission concepts in some detail, and a land surface imaging mission clearly was at the top of this year's priority list," Kennel said. "It will ultimately enable first-class science, by validating breakthrough technology with clear potential capabilities, both commercially and to the future of NASA's Earth Observing System."

As designed, the Advanced Land Imager represents an approximate sevenfold decrease in mass and electrical power usage demands compared to the current Landsat 5 multispectral instrument. In addition, it extends the existing measurement capabilities through the incorporation of an advanced high resolution hyperspectral imaging "spectrometer-on-a-chip." This novel, wide-field observing system requires no scan mirror. It is built around a lightweight integrated silicon carbide structure and optical system, with an innovative in-flight calibration system.

Under project management by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, the Advanced Land Imager will be developed from instrument technologies proposed by members of the existing New Millennium Integrated Product Development Teams.

For this mission, the team of industry partners will be led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA, a federally funded research and development center. Lincoln Lab and its partners will provide open access to U. S. industry regarding the design and performance of the Advanced Land Imager, with the explicit purpose of expediting the transfer of this technology into the commercial sector.

The instrument will feature ten-meter ground resolution in the panchromatic (black-and-white) band and 30-meter ground resolution in its other spectral bands, using a four- chip multispectral focal plane array that covers seven of the eight bands of the current Landsat. Hyperspectral capabilities, which further split these bands into highly differentiated images, will be tested to show that they can be combined into traditional Landsat-equivalent data sets.

"The combination of multispectral and hyperspectral capabilities in a future operational system would preserve and continue the invaluable Landsat-based record of global land cover change, while opening up new windows on the Earth in areas like precision vegetation studies and more accurate mineral identification," Kennel said.

The spacecraft support structure, including advanced electrical power and data-handling subsystems, will be provided by Swales & Associates, Inc., Beltsville, MD, and Litton Industries, College Park, MD. The effort also will incorporate advanced spacecraft technologies made available through the New Millennium Integrated Product Development Teams.

The power and data subsystems will be provided through a Space Act cost-sharing agreement that calls for Litton to develop the hardware and integrate it into the New Millennium spacecraft, while providing the company with a two-year license to commercialize the technology. "This innovative arrangement, which includes a major commitment from Litton to integrate and deliver the hardware, represents an exciting new way of doing business for Goddard," said Center Director Joseph Rothenberg.

Further potential industry partnerships in the mission beyond those already identified will be solicited in a workshop to be held during upcoming advanced definition studies.

The total NASA cost of the first New Millennium Earth science mission, including its Small Expendable Launch Vehicle, has been capped at $90 million. Launch is planned for late 1998.

The current mission operations concept for the New Millennium flight has the spacecraft flying autonomously several minutes ahead of the ground track flown by the planned Landsat 7 satellite, to provide accurate paired- scene comparisons between the new and the traditional observing technologies. Evolutionary versions of the Advanced Land Imager would be candidates for flight on future generations of NASA Earth Observing System missions, beginning with the AM-2 spacecraft.

Formally started in NASA's FY 1996 budget, the goal of the New Millennium program is to identify, develop, and flight-validate key instrument and spacecraft technologies that can enable new or more cost-effective approaches to conducting science missions in the 21st century. The overall program is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Office of Space Science, Office of Space Access and Technology, and Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, DC.


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