Just before noon (EDT) on September 6 2008, GeoEye (formerly ORBIMAGE) successfully launched the highest resolution and most accurate commercial imaging satelite, GeoEye-1, into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.. This week, on October 7, an image of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania was returned, the first location seen by the satellite when the camera doors opened, 423 miles above the surface of the earth while orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour (4.5 miles per second).
Google, the co-sponsor of the $502 Million project (along with The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), will have exclusive online mapping rights to the images. The photo resolution of the GeoEye is 41 cm (16 in), meaning objects of this size may be clearly seen – however government restrictions will allow Google to use only 50 cm (20 in). Currently, Google Earth’s highest resolution images are approximately 60 cm (24 in).
According to Kate Hurowitz, a spokeswoman for Google, the visual difference between the current 60 cm resolution and the upcoming 50 cm resolution, will be that of clearly seeing rooftops compared to clearly seeing vehicles.
GeoEye-2 is scheduled to launch in 2011 or 2012, and has a planned resolution of 25 cm (9.8 in).
Click on the image below for a closer view of the Kutztown campus from GeoEye-1’s first image. (1.26 MB)