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Australia to join US satellite program led by NASA

The Australian Government has agreed to join Landsat Next, the satellite program led by NASA and the US Geological Survey.

The satellite will map and observe the changing surface of the Earth to support mining exploration, monitoring of the Earth’s climate, water and environment, crop and agricultural health, and management of floods, fires and natural disasters.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King signed an in-principal agreement for Australia to partner in the Landsat Next program in Washington this month.

King said the agreement builds on Australia’s near 50-year partnership in the Landsat program through Geoscience Australia.

Landsat Next continues nearly 50 years of a close Earth observations partnership between Geoscience Australia and the United States Geological Survey, and is anchored at the heart of Australia in Alice Springs.

“The Landsat Next satellites will mean we can monitor Australia’s lands and coasts from space. It is the biggest and best selfie we could take of our great country,” said King.

The Australian Government stated the program will assure Australian access to the next generation of Landsat satellite data, which will deliver the best and clearest images we have ever had of our planet.

“Landsat data supported emergency services in Queensland in January to help mitigate potential flooding in Queensland ahead of Cyclone Kirrily,” said King.

Three identical satellites are expected to make up Landsat Next, each carrying instruments that detect 26 spectral bands spanning visible and infrared light.

New bands will help scientists, farmers and businesses among others to better observe, predict and manage everything from algal blooms to crop stress, from snow and ice cover changes to bushfires.

Landsat Next will image objects as small as 10 metres wide, which is about the width of a tennis court.

Australia will commit $207.4 million over four years and ongoing funding to the project, going towards enhancing satellite ground station facilities in Alice Springs and new advanced data processing and analytics capabilities.

The Landsat Next program is currently planned for launch in 2030.

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