After the US government relaxed restrictions on high-definition satellite imagery back in June, the U.S.-based DigitalGlobe is set to launch its WorldView-3 satellite to capture the earth with twice better resolution than before.
The new WorldView-3 satellite will be launched today (August 13) on an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Currently, commercial satellite operators are restricted from selling pictures with a resolution better than 50 centimetres to customers other than the U.S. government. But with the launch of WorldView-3 that's changing. The 18-foot-tall and 18-foot-wide satellite will encapsulate objects as tiny as 31 centimetres and will share data with a number of mapping services. The change should mean improved quality images on services like Google Earth and Bing Maps, both of which are DigitalGlobe customers.
"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," the company's chief executive Jeffrey Tarr said.
DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 will be the world's first satellite to capture comprehensive images of our planet. The satellites record images in visible and infrared light which can be used to monitor the environment. One of the sensors can see the existence of chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants and trees. By observing over time, the early warning signs of disease can be picked up. Trees begin to lose their chlorophyll when they are stressed and the satellite's sensor will spot that long before it's obvious to the eye. Beyond crop mapping, this satellite will even classify species on the ground and also identify moisture levels.
The satellites inclusion of three new sensors that capture eight additional infrared bands will also help the growing needs of a variety of industries including energy companies in the exploration of oil and gas and to geological research. Previously such information was unobtainable due to regulatory restrictions on taking pictures of objects smaller than 50 centimetres.
Because of its shortwave infrared sensor, the high-resolution imaging satellite will be able to relay images through obstructions like haze, fog, dust, smoke and other air-born particulates.
Approximately 90 days after the launch, the WorldView-3 satellite will be operational and the company will start selling images after six months of operation.
The takeoff of WorldView-3 will be streamed live through United Launch Alliance and can be viewed on their website.