August 27, 2007
WorldView-1 Launch Date Announced
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

WorldView-1 Launch Date Announced

by Susan Smith

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In January, GISWeekly wrote about DigitalGlobe’s
acquisition of GlobeXplorer. Now DigitalGlobe announced the
launch date for its newest satellite which has been in production for several years, WorldView-1.WorldView-1 will be delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for its scheduled launch on September 18, 2007.

Chuck Herring, director, Corporate Communications for DigitalGlobe, talked about the satellite, which is part of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)’s NextView program.

GISWeekly: Do you have customers lined up and ready, looking forward to using the data this satellite will produce?

Chuck Herring: Obviously the NGA is one as this satellite will service the NextView contract, and they’re very eager to start to receive the data. We do have customers around the world as well. The big differentiator with WorldView 1 is the fact that it collects 4-5 times more imagery than QuickBird currently collects. There are many regions of the world where our biggest problem is being able to collect because of a scarcity of capacity. For people collecting the large areas of the U.S., middle East, Europe, Asia, especially in developing areas, the biggest issue is being able to collect their imagery in a timely fashion. Having two satellites up there will help address that
capacity issue. It’s not as though there’s a drastic jump in the resolution of the imagery. We’re going from .6 meter from .5 meter. It’s more just being able to address the overall customers’ demand and being able to address our capacity needs. At this point we’d love get WorldView-2 up as soon as possible but obviously there are schedules involved in the construction of satellites.

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Getting WorldView-1 up coupled with QuickBird will help us deal with a lot of our capacity demands around the world. The obvious one that’s lined up and ready to go is NGA and our existing customer set, and as we grow our market on a daily basis with new customers there are people who are ready receive WorldView-1 imagery.

GW: Will the NGA be on your main customer on WorldView-2 as well?

CH: No, they’re interested in all different sources of data. They deal with foreign providers and different sources of imagery, so any time new sources come online they will be very interested. WorldView-2 was financed by DigitalGlobe and is independent of any contracts, so while we do anticipate they’ll have an interest in WorldView-2 we don’t have a contract in place for them to purchase WorldView-2 currently.

GW: What determines which satellite customers might require or would best meet their needs?

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It really comes down to their application. If there is a multispectral environment, obviously they’re going to want to do a QuickBird collect, if they have a resolution requirement that it needs to be half meter, then it moves to a WorldView-1 requirement. The other thing to note with WorldView-1 and WorldView-2 is that it is a much more agile satellite, about 10 times more agile than QuickBird, which means you can point it very quickly and that means that for an end user we’re able to do a lot of stereo collect for scientific purposes, or DEM collection or stereo collection around the world. There may be several applications where someone would want WorldView-1 to
collect in stereo mode. Also it’s a bit more map accurate than QuickBird, so if there’s an accuracy requirement it may shift to WorldView-1.

I think as we anticipate working with our partners and end users, there’ll be a mix, some will be placing order saying whichever satellite has the opportunity to collect it first, please select this area. Others will specify one satellite or the other, it depends on end users; application and what they want collected and how timely. We may run into occasions where they want QuickBird and they have timelines and they want to shift over to WorldView because they’re able to get it collected.

GW: Your ImageLibrary will probably be growing exponentially with this new satellite and with GlobeXplorer. Do you have any idea how fast it will be growing?

CH: On average, on a daily collection, we’ll be collecting about four to five times the amount of imagery, We usually collect about 500 images per day, so on the order of about 2,000 images per day. It is a drastic uptake in the amount of imagery we’re collecting. To date, we’re definitely over 300 million square kilometers that have been collected by QuickBird. Our acquisition of GlobeXplorer, which also includes the Airphoto library, was a significant portion of aerial imagery, so our library right now is very robust and will grow exponentially once WorldView is up there. The other thing to consider is that WorldView-2 will collect four to five times the amount of
imagery, so with both of those up there at the same time we would be collecting about 10 times what we’re currently collecting with QuickBird.

GW: Tell me about your relationship with Google Earth.

CH: It originally started with our relationship with Keyhole way back, and grew significantly. We’re one of the most significant providers to Google Earth. We’re kind of the default, high resolution, world wide provider of satellite imagery for Google mapping products.

In general, there has been a shift in awareness, in internet mapping and its availability, not only in the maps but the imagery behind it. We’ve grown it into other sectors. With our acquisition of GlobeXplorer, they had relationships with Zillow, and others, and since then we’ve been working with several different sectors, personal navigation, etc. We’ve made announcements about our relationship with Garmin and Lowrance, so we’re seeing because people have an expectation to see imagery with their mapping products it’s now creeping into many areas other than just internet mapping, in personal nav, etc.

Whether it’s the personal handheld nav, or marine, or car navigation, that’s what Lowrance is doing on the marine side, and they can use our imagery along coastlines to again put context in their mapping. We’re seeing demand grow, we’re seeing it on a smaller scale and it grows with each one of these relationships.

GW: How much of your business is consumer?

CH: We don’t do a lot of direct consumer. Consumers are looking at our imagery through Google and personal nav and internet mapping. We can’t put a number to it but the percentage of revenue is small because we generally do it through a channel or through large partners like Google or Garmin and they’re not selling imagery, it’s just packed for end use.

GW: Is the bulk of your business still with the government?

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