Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Google to buy GeoEye satellite imagery

Google has signed a deal under which GeoEye will supply the search giant with imagery from a satellite due to launch in coming days, the companies said.

Under the deal, Google is the exclusive online mapping site that may use the imagery, said Mark Brender, vice president of corporate communications and marketing. Google uses satellite imagery in its Google Maps and Google Earth product.

And as a little icing on the cake, Google's logo is on the side of the rocket set to launch the 4,300-pound satellite in six days from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

GeoEye-1 will orbit 423 miles above Earth, but it will be able to gather imagery with details the size of 41 centimeters, Brender said. Google, though, is permitted to use data only with a resolution of 50cm because of the terms of GeoEye's license with the U.S. government.

Each day, the satellite will be able to gather a high-resolution "pan-sharpened" format surface area equal to that of about New Mexico, the company said.

"The GeoEye-1 satellite has the highest ground resolution color imagery available in the commercial marketplace and will produce high-quality imagery with a very accurate geolocation," said Google spokeswoman Kate Hurowitz, adding that most commercial satellite imagery has a resolution of 60cm. "It is our goal to display high-resolution imagery for as much of the world as possible, and GeoEye-1 will help further that goal."

ITT built the imaging subsystem, and General Dynamics built the overall satellite, Brender said. GeoEye also contracted with ITT for the imaging in the GeoEye-2 satellite, due to launch in 2011 or 2012, Brender said. According to ITT, that satellite will have a resolution of 25cm, or about 9.75 inches.

Google's current imagery in Google Earth spans a range of resolution, the coarsest being 15 square meters per pixel, which is only good enough to see larger geographic features.

Inside GeoEye's $500 Million Imaging Satellite

GeoEye-1, the highest resolution imaging satellite in orbit, has begun releasing color images of such exceptional spatial resolution that some cannot be viewed without explicit government approval.

GeoEye's $500 million satellite launched into orbit Sept. 6 on a Boeing Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. After a 45-day testing and calibration period, images will begin downloading to GeoEye customers.

The GeoEye-1 is capable of capturing images as small as 16 inches in size from 432 miles above Earth -- close enough to spot a crusty baguette or a 12-pound bluefish -- but not quite near enough to identify a human face, the company says.

Applications for half-meter resolution satellite imagery run the gamut from national defense and security purposes to environmental monitoring, transportation, mining and drilling, agriculture, mapping and geo-based services. GeoEye-1 is part of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) NextView program. NextView is designed to ensure that the NGA has access to commercial imagery in support of its mission to provide timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security.

The satellite simultaneously collects 0.41-meter (16-inch) ground resolution black-and-white imagery in panchromatic mode and 1.65-meter color mode (multispectral). Security restrictions prohibit the release to commercial clients of imagery processed any closer than half-meter ground resolution.

In addition to government agencies, GeoEye counts Google (NSDQ: GOOG) among its customers. The serach giant will buy high-resolution images for use on Google Maps.

Orbiting at a speed of 17,000 mph, the two-ton satellite can pan up to 135,000 square miles per day in multispectral mode -- an area about the size of New Mexico. The craft carries a 1-Terabit recorder, and will downlink data at 740 mb/sec or 150 mb/sec to four ground stations in Virginia, Alaska, Norway, and Antarctica. A fifth location, near Denver, Colo., has been readied to act as a backup.

Insured for $320 million, the GeoEye-1 has a 7-plus year estimated life and enough fuel to last 15 years.

ITT's Space Systems Division built the on-board digital camera and delivered it to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, the satellite's primary contractor. ITT already is at work on a next-generation camera for GeoEye-2, capable of discerning objects as small as a meatball sub (0.25-meter or 9.75 inches) in size. That satellite may be ready in 2011.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

GeoEye-1: Satellite Sensor Characteristics

The following specifications are courtesy of GeoEye, and are subject to change.

Launch Date Q3 2007 (estimated)
Operational Life Over 10 years
Orbital Altitude 684 kilometers
Resolution at Nadir 0.41 meters panchromatic; 1.65 meters multispectral
Image Swath 15.2 kilometers
Equator Crossing Time Nominally 10:30 AM solar time
Revisit Time Less than 3 days
Dynamic Range 11-bits per pixel
Image Bands Panchromatic, blue, green, red, near IR

About the GeoEye-1 Satellite

GeoEye-1, developed and launched by GeoEye, will feature the most sophisticated technology ever used in a commercial remote sensing system. GeoEye-1 will be capable of acquiring image data at 0.41 meter panchromatic (B&W) and 1.65 meter multispectral resolution. GeoEye-1 will also feature a revisit time of under three days, as well as the ability to locate an object within just three meters of its physical location. This newly developed sensor will also be optimized for large projects, as it will be able to collect over 350,000 square kilometers of pan-sharpened multispectral satellite imagery every day.