[ Back ]   [ More News ]   [ Home ]
February 20, 2006
The Landsat Program: 22 Years and Still Counting
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Landsat 5 was part of a series of seven satellites launched in 1972 by the U.S. government, intended to last over 3-5 years. But Landsat 5 is still operational. 1-4 have basically died, according to Ron Beck, program information specialist in the USGS Satellite program. Landsat 6 never made orbit, leaving 5 and 7 responsible for gathering the government's satellite data. Since the Landsat program has been very successful and the need for satellite coverage has increased with the need for heightened security and response to natural disasters, the Department of the Interior's 2007 Budget Request for the USGS is $944.8 million, which will include funding for the
development of Landsat 8 and energy research. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

The Landsat Program: 22 Years and Still Counting

By Susan Smith

The recent repair of Landsat 5, designed to last 3-5 years, was met with a great sigh of relief by the geospatial community. Launched in 1984, Landsat 5 has had some issues over the years but has been able to weather those problems for an incredible 22 years.

Landsat 5 was part of a series of seven satellites launched in 1972 by the U.S. government. 1-4 have basically died, according to Ron Beck, program information specialist in the USGS Satellite program. Landsat 6 never made orbit.

In November, 2005, 5 developed the most recent problem. There is a solar array panel to collect sunlight on the solar batteries to provide the electricity to run the sensors on the satellite. “That solar array has to be adjusted fairly regularly on each orbit to get the right angle for solar collection,” explained Beck. “That mechanical device to adjust on the solar array quit functioning in November, so we were not getting the full angle on the sun and consequently, we were not getting enough electric power to operate the sensor effectively.”

USGS and NASA engineers adjusted it. The solar array was designed to operate at three different speeds: slow, medium and high speed. “High speed was designed in case there was a particular issue in which we had to adjust the solar panel quickly,” said Beck. Having operated for over twenty years at speed #1, “we cranked it up to speed #2 and it works. Now how long it will work, we don't know, we hope it will work for another four or five years. there's no way to predict.”

“Landsat 7 is our most recent satellite and the two [satellites] are in compatible orbits. It takes each satellite about sixteen days to cover the full planet. They're in orbits that are in effect eight days apart, so if one of them flies over your area today, eight days from now, the other one will fly over.”

Landsat 7 has had problems too, according to Beck. There is a device on Landsat 7 that adjusts to the track of the satellite. The scanner goes from left to right and then clicks back to the starting point again. As it is clicking back, the satellite is continuing to move. “We needed a device that compensated for the forward motion of the satellite and that's worked very well on Landsats 1-5 and 7 for quite awhile,” Beck said. “Then about two years ago, that device that compensates for the forward motion quit functioning. If you look at the outer edges of a picture where the sensors are not able to collect data because of the forward, you have banding, i.e. dark bands
where there are gaps in the data. It's as though you're looking through a Venetian blind, almost. We've found computer programs to compensate for that problem, and although we can't fix it, we are still getting 80% data.”

Beck said that during Katrina, the government was able to gather some very useful data from Landsat 5 and 7. Strangely enough, the center of each picture [from Landsat 7] was fine, and New Orleans just happened to be in the center of the images, so they got good coverage.

The science community has relied on Landsat 5 for a long time, and the loss of its operation as well as problems with 7 created a data gap.

The good news is that the current administration in the White House has recognized that Landsat has been dubbed an “experimental” program since its inception, and now has stated that it can now be called “operational.”

With this statement comes the okay to start working on a successor to Landsat 7. On February 6, the USGS sent out a
press release announcing the 2007 budget request for the USGS is $944.8 million. The budget will “add $40.1 million in new program and fixed cost funding which is offset by redirecting $49.9 million from lower priority activities and eliminating $10.0 million in earmarked funding.”

The natural disasters of the past year have heightened the USGS's needs for earth observation, energy research, and multi-disciplinary natural hazards research, monitoring and warning systems. $5.7 million will be set aside for a multi-hazards pilot initiative, which will include the development of Landsat 8 and energy research.

The 2007 budget seeks an increase of $16.0 million to fund Landsat 8 development, and an increase of $2.0 million to “meet mandates of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, including a national assessment of oil shale resources, preservation of geologic and geophysical data, and gas hydrate research to expand work on the North Slope of Alaska and on the outer continental shelf, ” according to the press release.

It takes 3-5 years to build a new satellite, according to Beck. In the meantime, people need a continuous record of data, so it's important to maintain satellite data without interruption. At this stage, in the event that 5 and 7 would both go down, Beck said that “We archive and distribute some older commercial data form a French satellite system, but mostly we work in partnership with the commercial sector so that your readers would go directly to them, not to us.”

Top News of the Week

CarteGraph announced the release of its new ArcGIS-embedded products, GEODATAconnect and GISdirector. The new products were developed with the assistance of ESRI technical staff and local government clients. A number of current CarteGraph clients have installed and implemented the software and are currently using it for their day-to-day operations.

CarteGraph GEODATAconnect and GISdirector will bring the power of CarteGraph's flexTECHNOLOGY-fully customizable software-to the geodatabase and make TRUE Public Works Management embedded in ArcGIS a reality. GIS users and public works professionals will be able to create and edit data either via CarteGraph software or through ESRI ArcGIS Desktop or ArcObjects tools.

Safe Software Inc. announced the release of SpatialDirect 2006, the most recent version of the company's spatial data distribution and transformation technology for the web. Based on innovative technology in Safe Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME), SpatialDirect allows organizations to easily and efficiently deliver map data via the web, in many different formats and coordinate systems.

MetaCarta(R), Inc., a provider of geographic intelligence solutions, announced that its technology has been chosen for inclusion in Raytheon's Direct-access User Knowledge Environment (DUKE) Information Management System, a messaging system used by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The integration of MetaCarta's GeoTagger technology by Raytheon allows the DUKE system to exploit unstructured text messages, producing valuable geospatial content that is incorporated together with other data for display and interpretation by the intelligence analyst.

GlobeXplorer has announced the latest functionality addition to their ImageAtlas aerial/satellite/map viewer: the ability to instantly pick, compare, and purchase images from multiple dates.

Users simply zoom to their area of interest and then click on a pull-down menu to select from all of the versions of imagery GlobeXplorer carries at that location and zoom level. Multi-date picking gives ImageAtlas users full access to GlobeXplorer's industry-leading catalog of imagery spanning back 15 years, and in some areas, much further.

Magellan announced the introduction of the first mapping software for rugged handheld GPS navigation devices containing a detailed map of the entire Republic of Mexico. Magellan MapSend Topo Mexico provides extensive searchable points of interest, topography, parks and highways, plus street detail for cities with a population of 50,000 or more. Available on a convenient preloaded Secure Digital (SD) memory card, the software converts compatible Magellan eXplorist(TM) and Meridian(TM) handheld GPS receivers into powerful travel tools allowing outdoor enthusiasts, tourists and adventurers to navigate with ease through both suburban and urban areas, on foot or behind the wheel.


Tadpole Technology Plc announced that its Geospatial Solutions Division has signed an agreement with SembCorp Utilities (UK) Ltd, a SembCorp Industries group company, in which the intellectual property rights to a suite of GIS solutions are transferred to Tadpole.


Galdos Systems Inc. announced the signing of a contract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory
(ORNL). Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the U.S. Department of Energy's largest science and energy laboratory. ORNL has engaged Galdos' Engineering Services department to provide a range of engineering services related to the use of open standards (GML, WFS etc.) in the design and development of Sensor Net applications for homeland security. Galdos services will include
the development of web service based architectures for the real time integration of geographic and sensor information, GML application schemas for sensor observations, and system performance analysis.

Intergraph announced that U.S. federal government security teams used Intergraph's mobile resource management solution in support of security operations at the President's State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C. Intergraph provided federal government security teams with an IntelliWhere(TM)-based system for real-time tracking of resources throughout the course of the event. IntelliWhere TrackForce was used to provide a map-based command and control interface allowing visibility and management of deployed mobile resources.

Intergraph Corporation announced that Wuhan University, China, the world's largest mapping university, has purchased an Intergraph Z/I Imaging DMC (Digital Mapping Camera). Leveraging some of the most advanced digital imagery available on the market, the university will be able to quickly and accurately provide small-scale to large-scale digital images to customers.

Autodesk Inc. announced its Autodesk European Location Services Developer Program. This location-based services (LBS) program provides European developers with the resources and support needed to rapidly bring LBS applications and services to market. The LBS market is estimated to reach $200 million EUR by 2007, according to Frost and Sullivan, and wireless carriers around the world are location-enabling their networks to facilitate worldwide demand for LBS services such as social networking, gaming, personal navigation and directions.


Analytical Surveys, Inc. (ASI), a provider of utility-industry data collection, creation and management services for the geographic information systems (GIS) markets, announced financial results for its first fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2005.
First quarter revenue was $1.3 million versus $2.0 million in the same period a year ago. Net loss available to common shareholders was $43,000, or $0.01 per diluted share, versus a net loss of $491,000, or $0.25 per diluted share, in the first quarter last year. The reduced net loss was principally due to lower revenues, salaries, wages, benefits and subcontractor costs, as well as the absence of severance costs in fiscal 2006. See
press release


MapInfo Corporation, global provider of location intelligence solutions, announced it will host MapWorld 2006, its 13th annual global user conference, on May 2-4 at the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. MapInfo executives, customers and industry experts will come together to demonstrate how MapInfo's location intelligence technology is helping organizations make smarter business decisions and enhance productivity.

Mike LaFerle, vice president of Real Estate, The Home Depot, will deliver this year's keynote address, "Building the Best Store Locations." For MapWorld 2006 registration information and a preliminary agenda, please go to this


The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. (OGC) announced a Request For Quotations (RFQ) from technology developers interested in an Interoperability Initiative to extend a reference implementation of OGC-based services at the state level in the U.S. The OGC Kentucky Watershed Modeling Information Portal (KWMIP) Pilot Project uses OGC Web Services (OWS), to provide advance the use of computer based watershed modeling in the commonwealth.

The Request for Quotations can be downloaded
here. A Bidder's Conference (a conference call) will be held on February 23, 2006. Questions for the call must be sent to by 2200 GMT February 21, 2006. The response period begins February 7, 2006 and ends March 7, 2006. The KWMIP kickoff will take place March 15, 2006 by teleconference and the final demonstration of capabilities will take place in June 2006. The initiative manager will be Sam Bacharach. For more information on the KWMIP Initiative, please contact Mr. Bacharach at +1 703-352-3938.


Michael Baker Jr., Inc., an Engineering unit of Michael Baker Corporation (AMEX:
BKR) announced that Joseph R. Seppi, strategic projects director for the Company's Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) practice, has been named 2005 Oracle Spatial Developer of the Year by Oracle Magazine as part of its Editors' Choice Awards. Now in its fourth year, winners of the Editors' Choice Awards represent some of the most visionary, engaging, and forward-thinking people working with Oracle technologies in every region of the world.

Contract Awards

Offshore Systems International Ltd. announced that its mapping division has been awarded a five-year prime contract valued at approximately C$3.0 million, including all options if exercised. The contract to conduct a county-wide mapping project was awarded by Washoe County in Nevada.


Quantm Ltd., the leader in transportation route optimization, announced the appointment of Tom Clemons as Vice President, Business Development - North America. Building on the rapid adoption of Quantm's road and rail planning technology in 14 U.S. States, Clemons will be responsible for further growing Quantm's business with transportation infrastructure planning departments throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

New Products

Blue Marble Geographics announces the release of their new TIGER/Line Map Kit Translator with updated Census data. This application includes TIGER/Line Translator version 8.0 shipped as either a TIGER to MIF (TGR2MIF) or TIGER to Shape (TGR2SHP) software application and the full TIGER data set.

Leica Geosystems announces the immediate availability of Cyclone™ 5.4 software to streamline workflows in the field and office for High-Definition Surveys. Key new features include:

Six New Visualization Tools: For faster navigation through point cloud data

“Single User” Setting: New option for faster point cloud loading and management

Automated Target Recheck: Improves survey quality and project productivity via easy field QA/QC checks.

Telcontar, supplier of software and services for the Location-Based Services (LBS) industry, announced at the 3GSM World Congress, the Telcontar Developer Zone's expansion to European-based LBS developers, offering a free online workspace environment that enables quick and easy prototyping for the development of location-enhanced applications.

Spatial NetWorks' new WatchLink technology tracks and maps nationally registered sex offenders and predators and e-mails reports detailing the locations, status and movement of the offenders in the area. WatchLink was designed to promote safety and awareness in communities across the nation.

Orion Technology Inc. is pleased to announce the launch of its new Corporate Website at
www.oriongis.com. The new website features flash presentations providing an overview of the company's three main business areas, Software, Custom Application Development, and Professional Services. The site also provides a number of new case studies, industry overviews, and a Members' Area for Orion Clients to access their personal profiles, update server information, download user guides, submit support requests and report bugs.

ER Mapper has released ER Mapper Mosaic-Balance-Compress (MBC). Retailing for US$1000, ER Mapper MBC provides a simple interface so even a novice user can create high-value compressed image mosaics.

Ekahau's Real-Time Location System (RTLS) provides a personnel tracking solution that integrates with Wi-Fi networks already in operation in most hospitals and health care facilities. Using the RTLS's Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE) 3.1 software and Ekahau T201 WLAN tags, hospital administrators and security personnel are able to track the location of doctors and nurses via an Intranet site on any web-enabled device. In an emergency situation, a hospital employee wearing the Ekahau tag can push its alarm button to summon help. The alarm signal can be routed to security personnel monitors as well as to their cell phones via SMS text message.

The WorldTracker SMS from Google Earth is equipped with a SiRFstarIII chipset and a Siemens MC-46 tri-band GSM module, the unit measures just 2.56 by 1.7 by 1.1 inches (45 by 66 by 25 millimeters) and weighs a mere 3.1 ounces (87 grams). The device is completely self-contained and features built-in GPS and GSM antennas, as well as a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It is small enough to place on a belt or in a purse, hide inside of a vehicle, or easily integrate into machinery.

TatukGIS announced the commercial release of the TatukGIS ASP.NET Internet Map Server (IS) product for Windows, with a trial version and samples. This GIS Internet Server reflects the latest advancement of the TatukGIS GIS engine and supports the same object API (2,300+ functions and properties) as the comprehensive TatukGIS Developer Kernel toolkit product. This includes support for geographic coordinate systems, topological operations, geocoding, routing, GPS tracking, SQL server database map layers, most GIS vector and image data formats, and much more.

The world's first integrated GIS data collection and land survey system - the GMS-110 - has been introduced by Topcon Positioning Systems. This instrument will operate with software solutions based on ESRI's ArcPad and is “perfect for the advanced GIS professional,” said Mike Weir, worldwide GIS sales manager. The GMS-110 is also compatible with Topcon's TopSURV-GIS, featuring both GIS data collection and land surveying functions.

Around the Web

Living It: Our Man on Mars by Michael Benoist, National Geographic.com - NASA's resident Martian talks about a new book, a big movie, and what it's like to road trip the Red Planet

Open source: The newest competitive tool, by Steven Shankland, CNET News.com, February 13, 2006 - A few years ago, releasing once-secret source code to the public would have been a highly unusual first move for a company with a newly acquired software product line.
But that's exactly what Integrated Computer Solutions is announcing this week with the Project.net project management software it bought Jan. 1.

Upcoming Events

GITA Annual Conference 29

Date: April 23 - 26, 2006

Place: Tampa, FL USA

GITA's Annual Conference and Exhibition is the most highly regarded educational event for professionals involved in geospatial information technologies.

You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.