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First Private Hi-Resolution Satellite Set to be Launched

WorldView-3 Satellite Sensor (0.31m) - © DigitalGlobe

A U.S.-based company is about to launch the first commercial observation satellite with twice better resolution than before.

DigitalGlobe says it will launch its new satellite Worldview-3 later this week. The move comes two months after the U.S. government relaxed its restrictions on the resolution of commercial satellite imagery from 50 centimeters to 25 centimeters.

Images from the company’s previously launched satellites are being used by many private companies and agencies, such as Microsoft, NASA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Google is using them for its popular services Google Earth, Google Maps and Street View.

Digital Globe says the new, twice-as-sharp images from Worldview-3, will be available starting early in 2015, making it possible to see objects as small as 25 centimeters.

Previously, photographing such high-resolution imagery for commercial purposes required hiring specially equipped aircraft.

Satellite imagery is increasingly used in mapping, natural resource research, urban planning, navigation and many other areas. According to some estimates the new satellite may help grow DigitalGlobe’s annual income by as much as $400 million.