US relaxes limit on satellite resolution

By on 17 June, 2014

Satellite imagery

Satellite imagery provider, DigitalGlobe, has received notice from the U.S. Department of Commerce on its application to allow the company to sell its highest-quality commercial satellite imagery.

Previous to this, the US Government placed a limit of 0.5 metre resolution on satellite imagery, for reasons of privacy and security. We previously mentioned, back in August 2013, that DigitalGlobe had asked NOAA to grant it permission to sell imagery at 0.25 metre resolution, and that request has now been granted.

Effective immediately, DigitalGlobe will be permitted to offer the highest resolution imagery available from its current constellation. Additionally, the updated approvals will permit DigitalGlobe to sell imagery to all of its customers at up to 0.25m panchromatic and 1.0m multispectral ground sample distance (GSD) beginning six months after its next satellite WorldView-3 is operational. WorldView-3 is scheduled to launch, August 13 or 14, 2014 from Vandenberg Air Force base.

With the launch of WorldView-3, DigitalGlobe claims that its constellation will be able to offer customers the highest available resolution, revisit rate, capacity, and spectral diversity. The company currently operates a fleet of five high-resolution earth imaging satellites. Two of those satellites – GeoEye-1 and WorldView-2 – collect imagery sharper than 0.50m, and all customers will have access to that imagery at the highest native resolution.

WorldView-3 will provide even higher resolution at 0.31m, and the GeoEye-2 satellite, which is substantially complete, will capture similarly sharp images when it is launched to replace a satellite currently in service or as an expansion to the constellation once warranted by market demand.

“We are very pleased and appreciative that the U.S. Department of Commerce under the leadership of Secretary Penny Pritzker, with support from the U.S. Departments of Defense and State and the Intelligence Community, has made this forward-leaning change to our nation’s policy that will fuel innovation, create new high-tech jobs, and advance the nation’s commanding lead in this strategically important industry,” said Jeffrey R. Tarr, DigitalGlobe CEO. “Our customers will immediately realise the benefits of this updated regulation, as for the first time, we will be able to make our very best imagery available to the commercial market. As a result of this policy update and the forthcoming addition of WorldView-3 to our constellation, DigitalGlobe will further differentiate itself from foreign competition and expand our addressable market.”

Additionally, DigitalGlobe announced today that it plans to shift the WorldView-1 satellite into a different orbit, in which it will image the earth in the afternoon local time each day. Customers will then be able to image a particular area with multiple satellites in the morning and again with WorldView-1 in the afternoon, thus providing consistent views of Earth over much of the day.

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