Table 4-161. Chronology of Landsat Development and Operations





Feb. 13-15, 1962

The University of Michigan sponsored the first of a series of Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment.

June 1964

NASA acquired its first CV-240A aircraft; the agency initially used it to test electronic systems for the Apollo program.

July 1964

NASA requested that the U.S. Geological Survey undertake studies, jointly funded by NASA and the Department of Interior, of the possible applications of evolving instruments designed for remote sensing of the earth and the moon.

Nov. 1964

NASA initiated its Earth Observations Aircraft Flight Program. The first flights, using the CV-240A, took place in June 1965.

Feb. 1965

NASA initiated its Earth Resources Survey (ERS) Program to develop methods for remote sensing of earth resources from space.

Mar. 2, 1965

At NASA's request, the Department of Agriculture began studying the applicability of remote sensing to solving agricultural problems. Agriculture expanded its studies to include all types of remote sensors relative to problems of geology, hydrology, geography, and cartography in December.

Dec. 1965

NASA borrowed a Lockheed P-3A aircraft from the Navy for its Earth Resources Survey Program; it became operational in January 1967.


The Department of Commerce began to participate in ERS with the formation of an Environmental Sciences Group within the Environmental Science Services Administration (later National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Early 1966

NASA Headquarters transferred the Earth Resources Survey Program from the manned space science program to the space applications program.

July 26, 1966

NASA Headquarters designated the Manned Spacecraft Center (later the Johnson Space Center) manager of earth resources experiments that would be flown on manned missions.

Sept. 21, 1966

The Department of Interior announced that an Earth Resources Observation Satellites (EROS) Program was being initiated to gather data about natural resources from earth-orbiting satellites carrying remote sensing observation instruments. This would be a multiagency program.

Oct. 21, 1966

The Department of Interior submitted to NASA performance specifications for EROS, including spacecraft requirements.

Feb. 1967

NASA began in-house Phase A feasibility studies of an Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS), which were completed in Oct. The studies concluded that ERTS was feasible using existing state-of-the-art equipment; launch could take place in 1970.

Mar. 1967

NASA Headquarters authorized the Goddard Space Flight Center to study the feasibility of automated spacecraft systems for ERTS.

Apr. 28, 1967

NASA requested inputs from industry for its Phase A ERTS study; 29 companies responded and about half of them made presentations at Goddard starting the next month.

Oct. 1967

In response to presentations to the Bureau of the Budget (BOB) on ERTS, the Bureau declined to authorize any funds for the project.

Dec. 20, 1967

BOB restored $2 million of the requested funding for ERTS with which to continue studies. The agency would not be able to begin hardware development.

June 1968

NASA acquired a C-130B ERS aircraft.

July 15, 1968

An interagency Earth Resources Survey Program Review Committee was established with participation from USDA, USN, ESSA (NOOA), USGS, and NASA.

July 1968

NASA acquired a Lockheed C-130B aircraft from the Air Force to replace its CV-240A.

Sept. 1968

At the Manned Spacecraft Center, project managers and principal investigators presented the results of their ERS aircraft program participation. At a meeting at NASA Headquarters, the user agencies developed a discipline rationale for the program.

Sept. 1968

NASA awarded Bendix Corp. a contract for the installation of a multispectral scanner system in NASA's NC-130B aircraft.

Dec. 2, 1968

NASA managers signed the project approval document for ERS to cover aircraft operations, procurement of remote sensors, and equipment and services for data handling and sensor requirements.

Jan. 7, 1969

NASA managers signed the project approval document for Phase B/C ERTS, which included conducting an economic benefits study, project definition, spacecraft systems design study, and long lead-time sensor and instrument development.

Apr.-July 1969

NASA conducted an ERS Foreign Test Site Research project in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.

Apr. 30, 1969

The interagency committee formally transmitted ERTS design specifications to its members for approval.

May 21, 1969

NASA issued 12 requests for proposals (RFP) for definition and design of ERTS systems; responses were due in June.

June 20, 1969

NASA approved a contract with RCA Astro-Electronics Division for an ERTS return beam vidicon multispectral three-camera system.

July 24, 1969

An Earth Resources Data Facility was established at the Manned Spacecraft Center to contain documentation from NASA and user agency investigators participating in the ERS program.

Aug. 1969

NASA phased out its CV-240A and replaced it with a Lockheed Herculese C-130B, which became operational in September.

Aug. 16, 1969

NASA approved a contract with Hughes Aircraft Company for a multispectral scanner system for ERTS.

Oct. 17, 1969

NASA selected TRW, Inc., and General Electric Company (GE) for contract negotiations for the prime ERTS Phase B/C contract.

Nov. 13, 1969

NASA awarded letter contracts to TRW and GE (contracts were definitized in January 1970).

Feb. 9, 1970

Goddard issued a letter contract to RCA for the ERTS videotape recorder.

Feb. 11, 1970

TRW and GE delivered their ERTS definition/preliminary design studies and proposals to Goddard.

Apr. 1970

NASA issued contracts to Hughes for a multispectral scanner and to RCA for a return beam vidicon.

June 15, 1970

Funds were approved for an on-center ERTS tracking facility at Goddard.

June 1970

NASA selected GE as provider of the microwave radiometer/scatterometer-altimeter for the Earth Resources Experiment Package (EREP) to be flown on manned spaceflight missions; the agency also selected Honey Radiation Center as provider of EREP's 10-band multispectral scanner.

July 14, 1970

NASA issued RFPs to potential experimenters for use of ERTS A and B data.

July 15, 1970

NASA announced its selection of GE as prime contractor (Phase D) for ERTS (contract definitized in May 1971).

Sept. 22-24, 1970

GE held the ERTS Conceptual Design Review.

Oct. 27, 1970

NASA awarded RCA a contract for flight model videotape recorders and associated equipment for ERTS.

Nov. 1970

NASA completed preliminary design reviews and critical design reviews for EREP.

Dec. 24, 1970

NASA's Acting Administrator, George M. Low, approved the use of a High Altitude Airborne Research Project using U-2 aircraft.

Jan. 19, 1971

NASA issued RFPs to prospective investigators for use of data from EREP, which would fly on Skylab.

Feb. 2-5, 1971

Goddard conducted a briefing for 651 potential ERTS and EREP investigators.

Mar. 1971

NASA froze the ERTS A/B spacecraft design.

Apr. 2, 1971

NASA announced that it intended to expand its airborne research program by acquiring two Lockheed U-2 aircraft. Lockheed delivered the aircraft to Ames Research Center in June.

May 8, 1971

NASA had received over 550 proposals from potential users of ERTS and EREP data. In June, that number would grow to 600; in July to 701.

June 11, 1971

NASA proposed ERTS C as a new project for FY 1971, with launch scheduled for March 1974 on a Delta N. Congress did not approve funds.

July 15, 1971

The contractor delivered the ERTS spacecraft data collection system.

Aug. 1971

NASA conducted its first U-2 operational mission, simulating ERTS activities.

Sept. 24, 1971

The contractor delivered the ERTS video tape recorder.

Oct. 20, 1971

NASA announced its initial selection of ERTS and EREP investigators.

Dec. 1971

The contractor delivered the ERTS multispectral scanner.

July 23, 1972

NASA successfully launched ERTS 1 (Landsat 1).


In 1973, NASA again began proposing a third ERTS mission. Congress approved the project in June 1974, only to have the Office of Management and Budget throw it out. However, in January 1975, President Gerald Ford overrode OMB's decision. ERTS C was included in the FY 1976 budget. Project planners now called for a September 1977 launch.

Apr. 12, 1973

NASA's Convair 990 aircraft collided with a Navy P-3 Orion over Moffett Field, California, killing all 11 aboard the NASA craft.

May 8, 1973

The Johnson Space Center awarded GE a contract to study future earth resources systems.

July 12, 1974

NASA announced that 93 research teams had been selected to participate in ERTS follow-on investigations. Investigators would use data from ERTS I and ERTS B, scheduled for launch in early 1975.

Aug. 1974

The Senate conducted hearings on bills that would establish a separate Office of Earth Resources Survey Systems within NASA and an Earth Resources Observation Administration within the Department of Interior to administer the operational phase of ERTS. NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher argued that it was too early in the program to separate development and operations; NASA opposed the bill.

Sept. 18, 1974

In further hearings on establishing operational offices for ERTS, an OMB official testified that it was too early to set up such a management structure for the still experimental satellite.

Nov. 25, 1974

Senator Frank E. Moss introduced an amendment to one of the bills that would have established operational offices for ERTS; his amendment would continue experimentation with earth resources remote-sensing satellite systems through 1979. NASA and the Department of the Interior would have to ensure continuity of satellite data during this period.


During its operations through 1974, ERTS I had transmitted 100 000 photos covering three-fourths of the earth's land masses; over 300 U.S. and foreign investigators had received data.

Jan. 14, 1975

NASA changed the name of the project from ERTS to Landsat.

Jan. 22, 1975

NASA successfully launched Landsal 2.

Apr. 4, 1975

NASA awarded Goodyear Aerospace Corp. a contract for a Special Purpose Processor to augment existing computing capability for Landsat 2s Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment.

Oct. 20, 1975

NASA awarded RCA a contract for the return beam vidicon for Landsat C, which would have twice the resolution of earlier instruments.

Dec. 16, 1975

NASA chose Lockheed Electronics Co. to supply the tape recorder for Landsat C.

Dec. 1975

As of December 1975, Landsat 2 had returned more than 53 000 images; 300 000 messages from data-collection platforms had been sent to users; 2600 sample sites for the Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment had been processed. NASA declared that primary objectives had been achieved.

Jan. 30, 1976

The General Accounting Office submitted a report on Landsat to Congress. It recommended, among other things, that NASA implement a training program for potential users of Landsat data.

Dec. 1, 1977

The House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology recommended a five-year Earth Resources Satellite Information System validation program to assure a more orderly management of earth resources activities.

Early 1978

NASA terminated Landsat 1 (ERTS 1) operations.

Mar. 5, 1978

NASA successfully launched Landsat 3.

July 1978

Lockheed opened a remote sensing applications laboratory in Houston to market Landsat data products.

Jan. 1980

NASA retired Landsat 2.

June 1980

NASA reactivated Landsal 2 to participate in tests being conducted by NOAA.

Back -