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Satellite With SD Ties Launched

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Monday marked an exciting day for both scientists and South Dakotans alike. At 12:02 Monday afternoon a satellite was launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California.

It’s the eighth satellite in the Land Data Continuity Mission, to give us images of the earth from space.

Landsat Data Continuity is a continuing of a landsat legacy that has been going on now for 40 years,” said Dr. Kelly Frank, Director of EROS.

EROS is a South Dakota based government agency that works with the United States Geological Survey and NASA to create these satellites. Dr. Kelly said the first satellite in the mission was launched in 1972.

Monday, the newest one was sent into space to join two others.  

“Each of those has been given the task of monitoring the earth, land use, land change, uses sensors that sense the radiation from the earth,” said Dr. Kelly.

It also gets information to vegetation, landforms, and how we impact the earth.
The L-8 satellite is the size of a UPS truck, weighing 3 tons, and attached to it is a thermal sensor similar to this one that scans images of the earth as it orbits around it.

The satellite will send over 400 images each day of the earth to the EROS Center in Sioux Falls for scientists to study.
Tom Kalvelage is the chief of the data management branch at EROS. He has worked on the project for the past eight years. He said this launch marks a new era in the scientific study of the earth.
“There are additional bands on the so it can see different lighting frequencies, so we can see the costal resources and water resources issues,” said Kalvelage.

Now that the satellite’s mission has been deemed viable.
“Seeing it actually launch was incredible, seeing it successfully launch, was great,” said Kalvelage.

The hard work for him and Dr. Kelly has just begun, as they will send the data the satellite gives them to scientists all over the world.

In May, NASA will give control of the satellite to EROS and it will be monitored from South Dakota. The satellite has a life expectancy of five years, but one satellite that is currently in space, has been there for 28 years.
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