The super-satellite sponsored by Google and the NGA captured its first images recently of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania after only days of opening its camera doors. This is the first of many images to be captured by the world’s highest-resolution commercial satellite known as the GeoEye-1.
The GeoEye captured its first image while moving from the North Pole to the South Pole at 12pm EST on October 7 from its course 423 miles above the Earth. The satellite can take photos at a resolution of up to 41 centimeters- close enough to zoom in on the home plate of a baseball diamond, according to WIRED news. Not bad for a machine flying at nearly 17,000 MPH.
The technology has been around for decades, but only licensed to Government agencies for use in spy satellites. It’s only recently become available to the public and for business use. Google Earth, for example, launched in 2004 with marginal accuracy, and within two short years covered a third of the world’s population. “This is the opposite of a spy satellite,” stated Mark Brender, GeoEye’s vice president of communications and marketing. “Spies don’t put info on the internet and sell imagery. We’re an earth-imaging satellite, and we can sell our imagery to customers around the world who have a need to map, measure and monitor things on the ground.”
Google isn’t the only one benefiting from the GeoEye-1. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a U.S. government agency that analyzes imagery in support of national security, is also sponsoring the project- contributing $502 million as well as committing to purchase imagery from it. The only real difference between the imagery the NGA and Google receive, is that Google will only receive images at a 50-centimeter resolution because of a government restriction. The NGA can make use of the 43 centimeters resolution, as well as closer once GeoEye-2 launches. This could be as soon as 2011 or 2012. The GeoEye-2 could give a resolution of 25 centimeters or closer when launched. “We’re commercializing a technology that was once only in the hands of the governments,” Brender said in a phone interview. “Just like the internet, just like GPS, just like telecom — all invented by the government. And now we are on the front end of the spear that is commercializing this technology.”
It should be interesting to see how Google changes its Earth application to utilize the new resolution. It’s a shame that it’s restricted to a 50 cm. resolution, though I think some would agree that Google can already see too closely.