GeoEye-1 Goes into Orbit

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Industry News
GeoEye-1 Goes into Orbit
By Susan Smith

Everyone loves a successful space launch, but perhaps those who love it most are those in the space business. This past Saturday, September 6, GeoEye, Inc. announced the successful launch and deployment of GeoEye-1,which owns the distinction of being “the world’s highest resolution, commercial Earth-imaging satellite,” from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 11:50 a.m. (Pacific Time).

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
GeoEye-1, financed in part by a $500-million NextView contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and built by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Gilbert, Ariz., has the highest resolution of any commercial imaging system - 0.41-meters ground resolution black-and-white (panchromatic) images or 16 inches. It will collect color (multispectral) imagery at 1.65-meter resolution or about 64 inches. Due to U.S. government constraints, GeoEye must sell the imagery at ½ meter ground resolution to commercial customers.

Mark Brender, vice president of marketing for GeoEye, said the 4310-pound satellite will be able to see an object the size of home plate on a baseball diamond. “More importantly it will be able to map the location of an object of that size to within about nine feet of its true location on the surface of the globe.”

“The GeoEye-1 satellite is basically a mapping machine in orbit,” added Brender. GeoEye is currently doing various calibrations of flight load upgrade and if all goes smoothly they expect to “turn the camera on” in about ten to twelve days. The company has a 45-60 day calibration and engineering checkout period, after which they expect to have imagery available to customers, probably in late October.

For GeoEye, Saturday was a historic occasion as the company’s ground station in Norway relayed the downlink signal it received from GeoEye-1, which confirmed that the satellite had successfully separated from the second stage of the launch vehicle and begun to initialize all its onboard systems automatically.

The satellite was launched into a near-polar (sun-synchronous) orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II launch procured by Boeing Launch Services from United Launch Alliance in Denver. GeoEye-1’s earth imaging payload was engineered and manufactured by ITT's Space Systems Division (SSD), headquartered in Rochester, N.Y. Included in ITT's integrated electro-optical payload was the sensor subsystem, optical telescope unit and outer barrel assembly.

Among the watchers at the launch were both Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. GeoEye-1’s rocket was emblazoned with a Google logo, heralding an agreement between GeoEye and Google formed at the time of the launch to sell color half meter resolution imagery to Google for exclusive use in the online mapping market. Brian O’Shaughnessy of Google said they are looking forward to incorporating GeoEye-1 imagery into their Google Earth product as soon as possible, which will be at least three months from now.

Interestingly, Spot Image Corp. announced last week its new partnership with Google. As a Google Earth Enterprise Partner, Spot will be able deliver imagery via Google Earth, integrating SPOT’s imagery content into Google Earth and Maps, plus develop ready to use image data.

GeoEye’s current products are primarily images categorized by resolution and positional accuracy, characterized by three product areas: a baseline product called Geo, an orthorectified product called GeoProfessional and a top end product used in stereo airfields called GeoStereo. In addition, GeoEye has an airport mapping solution that will be enhanced with more accurate, higher resolution imagery from GeoEye-1 to build airport mapping databases.

Other customers for GeoEye-1 data besides Google include: oil and gas exploration, pipeline infrastructure management, insurance and risk management, environmental monitoring and state and local governments for planning, mapping and zoning. “Our mainstay customer will be the National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency (NGA); they currently comprise 55% of our revenues,” Brender pointed out. “They will use the imagery to update mapping databases and for disaster assessment and disaster relief.”

Last October, GeoEye formed a relationship with SPADAC, provider of geointelligence and predictive analysis solutions for government and industry. This agreement allows each company to use the other’s capabilities, which makes possible the combination of predictive analysis tools with satellite imagery.

Each satellite launch surpasses its predecessor by leaps and bounds. Brender said that each satellite is made on an assembly line, and each one is basically a technological work of art. “It’s the march of technology,” he noted. “We’re starting to build the camera for GeoEye-2 to launch in 2011 or 2012 and that ground resolution could be as good as a ¼ meter.”

Top News of the Week

ORBIT Geospatial Technologies announced the release of Orbit Explorer 4.3, free on all platforms. Orbit Geospatial Technologies presents Orbit Explorer 4.3 for all platforms: Windows 32 and 64bit, Linux and Unix 32 and 64bit, Mac OSX systems on G4, G5 and Intel Dual Core machines. The Orbit Explorer Desktop solution now comes with full OGC WMS support over 50 new and improved functionalities. Download your copy now from Orbit Geospatial Technologies.

An archaeologist from Michigan State University is using GPS-Photo Link photo mapping software from GeoSpatial Experts to record the precise locations and conditions of ancient tombs in Oman. The researcher believes the tombs will provide insights into ancient peoples from the land once known as Magan, now northern Oman, in the Third Millennium B.C.

“We know relatively little about the cultures of Magan other than the fact that they lived in this area just south of Mesopotamia for about 800 years,” said Charlotte Cable, an archeology graduate student and researcher at Michigan State University. “By studying their tombs, we hope to learn about their culture.”


Autodesk, Inc. announced that it has completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of 3D Geo GmbH, the privately held maker of intelligent 3D urban modeling software. Autodesk announced its intent to acquire substantially all of the Potsdam, Germany-based company's assets on August 11, 2008. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

PCI Geomatics is pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Geomatics Center of China (NGCC). The MoU outlines plans for collaboration on the development of a project for change detection with satellite imagery. Project results will include the creation of a dynamic digital map generation and updating system, along with a capability for large image storage

Pictometry International Corp., a provider of geo-referenced aerial image libraries whose proprietary technology is used globally to capture oblique image libraries, has signed a technology license agreement with Sightvision, an emerging Tel Aviv based aerial survey and mapping company.


Intermap Technologies Corp. announced that its Intermap Federal Services, Inc. subsidiary received a USD $2.1 million contract to provide 3D digital elevation data and orthorectified radar imagery for an international project. The project utilizes data previously collected with the Company's proprietary Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IFSAR) technology. Under the agreement, the Company will deliver the mapping data during the third and fourth quarters.

Hurricane Gustav, thankfully, passed over the Gulf Coast region without as much damage as had been forecasted. There were a few power outages and very little damage to downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter (where the URISA Annual Conference will be held, October 7-10, 2008). The Sheraton New Orleans confirmed that the hotel is just fine and ready to take reservations for the URISA Conference.

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