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Landsat’s RBV had an inauspicious beginning. It rode into orbit on Landsat 1 on July 23, 1972. During orbit 196, just 14 days later, a relay in the Power Switching Module of the spacecraft got stuck in a permanently “on” state.

The problem could have been fixed with a difficult command sequence, but the other sensor on Landsat 1, the MSS, was already showing its excellent performance and became the favored sensor for its capability to acquire near-infrared data. So the RBV on Landsat 1 was not reactivated. In the short time it operated, it recorded 1,692 images.

The RBV camera that flew on board Landsat 3 was redesigned and given a slightly different mission. This RBV had a spatial resolution higher than the MSS, 40 meters, to add a new dimension to the MSS’s multispectral coverage. The higher detail could be used for detailed ground mapping. The Landsat 3 RBV acquired many thousands more images than either one on board Landsats 1 and 2. The RBV imagery is scattered across the globe, and all of it resides in the EROS archive.


Every picture has a story to tell
July 28, 1981, Landsat 3, Return Beam Vidicon — Las Vegas, Nevada, USA


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