Powerful Landsat 9 satellite beams home first photos of Earth


 The twin satellites follow in the wake of Earth observation datasets the Lunar and Planetary Lab, known for years as 501E@0412, and Anomalasi, which was launched in April 2020 by the same company that built and launched Earth-observation platforms developed for the VAINA satellite.

The twin satellites follow in the wake of Earth observation datasets the Lunar and Planetary Lab, known for years as 501E@0412, and Anomalasi, which was launched in April 2020 by the same company that built and launched Earth-observation platforms developed for the VAINA satellite.

Kosmos, Russia

An undated illustration shows Kosmos 2, the first part of the duo to fly Earth from far-away space. The spacecraft orbits Earth back and forth by close to 20 meters and has a huge solar array to boot.

Luxembourg

The ground frame for the EQN-7 mission is visible in the distance, marking the land phase of a bit of world change. At this distance, light has to travel deep enough through Earth’s atmosphere to reach the spacecraft from the photo receptors on board EQN. EQN-7 was designed as part of the EQN project, which marks the evolution of Earth observation from an earlier mission to the first true spaceflight, having launched in December 2019 and established a new Earth observation platform for Luxembourg.

On December 15, 2020, EQN-7 connected its solar arrays, releasing an internal signal that then prompted the probe to make its contact-sensing gestures that are said to indicate its physical approach. Once started, EQN-7 will linger in orbit around Earth for a couple of years, performing what the researchers call a complex behavioral orbiter.

A pair of new satellites launched into space from Kazakhstan on November 30. The pair, dubbed Kosmos 2, and EQN-7 were flown onto the same rocket that carried the Indian Earth Observation Satellite Zodiac to the Earth. Together, the two missions form a new collaboration among Luxembourg’s space agency, the Ministry of Space, and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

Together, these two missions form a new collaboration between Luxembourg’s space agency, the Ministry of Space, and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. That means EQN-7 and Kosmos 2 will take part in a new, broader and coordinated initiative aimed at bringing data back to Earth from faraway satellites as soon as possible. These satellites will be the next step in a program called EQN – for “Evaluation for Earth Observation” – which began in late 2019 and has now led to two large satellites being launched.

All three missions are part of Europe’s agenda to get ground-truth observations from satellites once again, since solar flares and commercial and human activity had clouded measurements in the decades leading up to the Earth Observation Satellite Vesta. EQN satellites will help examine ground-truth questions related to volcanic eruptions, migration, and weather. The NASA mission EPIC – for Earth Observation Satellite Utilization – is due for launch on December 11, along with the German satellite DEFORM at the other end of the launch line. ( EPIC is replacing the cancelled German launcher Ceres, which launched several years ago and had some issues.)

These European satellite launches – along with commercial ventures like the JAXA TESS, which launched in January this year – mark the culmination of a long, underfunded, and elusive mission to have pushed humanity into space again.

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