Google Maps to look closer through new GeoEye satellite

Google Inc.’s massively popular online mapping tool Google Maps is about to increase its worth as a navigational service following a deal with Virginia-based commercial satellite imagery company GeoEye that will provide Google with enhanced imagery direct from its latest orbiting satellite.

Due to blast into orbit in September, resulting map images captured by the GeoEye-1 satellite will be used exclusively by Google, which marks the strengthening of an existing content deal the California-based search giant already has in place with GeoEye via its IKONOS satellite.

Notably, although Google already uses imagery from IKONOS, and other contributors, the content sourced from GeoEye’s new $500 million USD satellite is expected to see Google Maps taking receipt of the highest resolution images currently being gathered by orbiting satellite systems.

Due to blast clear of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this coming September 04 aboard a Delta II rocket, GeoEye has stated that, once through system calibration and testing, its satellite should be ready to provide enhanced mapping capabilities to Google by the close of October.

However, Google Inc. itself has not yet indicated how much more processing time would be required before online users begin to see the benefits through Google Maps.

According to GeoEye, its GeoEye-1 satellite has been designed to capture colour images of the planet from 423 miles (681 kilometres) in space while moving at a speed of approximately four-and-a-half miles (seven kilometres) per second.

Making 15 orbits each day, the 4,400lb GeoEye-1 will gather content through its ITT-made imaging system, which can distinguish objects on the Earth’s surface as small as 0.41-metres (16 inches) while in black and white mode, and multispectral and colour imagery at 1.65-metre ground resolution.

Despite the impressive specs, under the boundaries of its operating license from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), GeoEye will re-sample the GeoEye-1’s imagery to a 0.50-metre resolution for commercial consumption.

“The satellite will be able to see an object the size of home plate on a baseball diamond but also map the location of an object that size to within about nine feet (three meters) of its true location on the surface of the Earth without need for ground control points,” outlined GeoEye in its official release.

“With the ability to revisit any location on the globe every three days, and at lesser resolution more frequently, GeoEye-1 will enable customers to receive imagery updates on a regular basis and is ideal for large-scale mapping projects.”

Further to that, with the combined orbiting efforts of GeoEye-1 and IKONOS, the satellites under GeoEye’s control will enable the company to cover almost one million square kilometres of imagery on a daily basis.

“This capability will benefit a broad array of industries including national defense and intelligence, online mapping, state and local governments, environmental monitoring and land use management, oil and gas, utilities, disaster management, insurance and others,” enthused GeoEye.

Those wishing to watch the Delta II rocket carry GeoEye’s latest satellite into space can do so via a live stream by simply clicking here to access the official launch Web site or by visiting GeoEye’s official site by clicking here.

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