NASA, USGS Seek Info for Landsat Next Ground Station

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson applauds during a news conference to discuss the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project "to develop technology and designs for a new generation of lower-emission single-aisle airliners" at the James Webb Auditorium of NASA Headquarters on January 18, 2023 in Washington, DC. NASA announced Wednesday it has issued an award to partner with Boeing to develop and flight-test a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing demonstrator aircraft.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson applauds during a news conference to discuss the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project "to develop technology and designs for a new generation of lower-emission single-aisle airliners" at the James Webb Auditorium of NASA Headquarters on January 18, 2023 in Washington, DC. NASA announced Wednesday it has issued an award to partner with Boeing to develop and flight-test a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing demonstrator aircraft. Alex Wong / Getty

The ground station will house mission control, the ground network and other capabilities to support Landsat Next.

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey are seeking industry feedback as they look to build the ground station for the Landsat Next mission. 

According to Wednesday’s request for information, Landsat Next—which continues a longstanding partnership between NASA and the USGS—is expected to begin early orbiting checkout and commissioning activities towards the end of 2030, so the agencies are looking to complete crucial design, ground integration and testing in 2026 and 2027.

Landsat Next will “continue the acquisition, archival and distribution of multi-spectral imagery affording global, synoptic and repetitive coverage of the Earth’s land surface at a scale where natural and human-induced changes can be detected, differentiated, characterized and monitored over time,” the RFI noted. Additionally, several laws require the Landsat program to provide forward-looking data that is consistent with previous data to enable detection and quantitative characterization of changes. The RFI stated that Landsats have continued to obtain multispectral images of the Earth’s land surface since the first one was launched in 1972. 

As part of the agencies’ partnership, NASA provides the space and launch segments and USGS provides the ground segment. While the RFI briefly outlined what the space segment will include, it focused on the ground segment for which it seeks information. According to the RFI, the current Landsat ground segment supports Landsat 8 and 9 mission operations; however, Landsat Next will “take advantage of previous mission heritage and will upgrade and expand the current systems to accommodate Landsat Next.” 

Specifically, the ground segment will be comprised of the ground system—which includes the mission operations center, the ground network and the data processing and archive system and its external surfaces, such as NASA institutional services. Additional external surfaces include NASA’s Near Space Network and NASA ACCESS Space relay and government or commercial ground station, a NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conjunction Assessment and Risk Analysis and their flight dynamics facilities, in addition to other external interfaces.

The RFI described how each of the aforementioned systems and functionality will work individually and together for Landsat Next. In short, the Mission Operations Center will be the main way to monitor and control Landsat and will perform tasks like maintenance and performance analysis. The MOC will take, process and archive data via the ground network, which includes “geographically dispersed ground station resources for mission execution and will include a Wideband or cloud-based data routing capability” to transfer data. The GN will likely be comprised of government, commercial and international ground stations. Additionally, the Data Processing and Archive System will—as its name suggests—mostly intake, process and archive data from the ground network, and it will be able to provide long-term data archiving capability which will be held in the cloud. There will also be a public-facing web portal to access this data. 

The RFI detailed specifications for the S-Band and Ka-Band for the Landsat. 

The RFI noted that NASA and USGS seek information from ground station-as-a-service organizations for the feasibility of expanding existing architecture for the new needs of Landsat Next, such as the need to address the large increase in contact time as well as data transmission needs. 

The agencies provided specifics for responses to include and questions for them to answer. 

Responses are due to the contracting officer via email by Feb. 20 at 5pm EST. 

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