Nasa has contracted US-based aerospace and defence technology provider Orbital ATK to design and build the Landsat 9 land surface mapping satellite.

Under the $129.9m, five-year contract, Orbital ATK will design and manufacture the satellite, as well as integrate the mission’s two government furnished instruments with the spacecraft.

Orbital ATK will also support the launch, early orbit operations and on-orbit check-out of the observatory.

“Landsat represents over four decades of imagery."

To be operated by US Geological Survey (USGS), the satellite will expand the capacity of Landsat programme, which has been providing 30m resolution, multi-spectral, global measurements of Earth’s land cover since 1972.

Landsat 9 is planned to be launched by December 2020 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.

Orbital ATK science and environmental programmes vice-president Steve Krein said: “Landsat represents over four decades of imagery, providing valuable data for agriculture, global change research, emergency response, and disaster relief."

The company previously built three satellites under the Landsat programme.

Using the company’s medium-class low-Earth-orbit LEOStar-3 platform, Landsat 9 will be designed, built and tested by Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group at its facilities in Gilbert, Arizona, US.

Orbital ATK noted that the previous Landsat 8 programme was also built on the LEOStar-3 platform.