VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A satellite to monitor the Earth's surface is on its way to its final orbit after a successful launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA says.
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission, eighth in the Landsat series of satellites continuously observing Earth's land surfaces since 1972, was launched at 1:02 EST, the space agency reported Monday.
The solar arrays deployed 86 minutes after launch, providing power for the satellite which is on course to reach its operational, sun-synchronous polar orbit 438 miles above Earth within two months, NASA officials said.
"Landsat is a centerpiece of NASA's Earth Science program, and today's successful launch will extend the longest continuous data record of Earth's surface as seen from space," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
"This data is a key tool for monitoring climate change and has led to the improvement of human and biodiversity health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture monitoring -- all resulting in incalculable benefits to the U.S. and world economy."
Following a check-out phase for the next three months, NASA will transfer control to its mission partner, the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey.
"Landsat has been delivering invaluable scientific information about our planet for more than forty years," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
"It's an honor to be a part of today's launch to ensure this critical data will continue to help us better understand our natural resources and help people like water managers, farmers, and resource managers make informed decisions."