Watch GeoEye-1 Launch Tomorrow; Thoughts on the Imagery War

GeoEye, an imagery provider, is launching their latest satellite, GeoEye-1, tomorrow. This satellite will offer half-meter resolution imagery to commercial companies and even greater resolution to government agencies (as high .41 meters). As was widely reported last week, the new imagery has been licensed exclusively to Google for online purposes (CNET has more on the deal’s terms).

The satellite will launch tomorrow (September 6th) “Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The planned launch time is 11:50:57 a.m. PDT.” You can watch the take-off live on Boeing’s site.

If you’re uncertain what this means take a look at the two images below. The one on the left is “1-meter simulated resolution from aerial imagery of Colorado Capitol and Downtown Denver” the on the right is .5-meter simulated resolution. It’s an amazing increase. I hope that GeoEye-1 is used to catalog the world in this detail. You can see more comparison images on the GeoEye site.

1M resolution denver bldg

1M resolution denver bldg

This is the latest foray in what has become a battle for the best imagery with the between Google and Microsoft (where best means highest-resolution of the most places).

Long after the release of the late Jim Gray‘s TerraServer, Google started it with the release of satellite imagery in Google Earth and Google Maps in 2005. Microsoft released 3D-enabled Virtual Earth in the browser later that year along with Birds Eye imagery. Google returned the volley in 2007 with Streetside view. Just last month Photosynth launched and was moved to the Virtual Earth team.

Of late both companies have been adding imagery of the sky and far away planets. Both companies have also released 3D modeling tools to allow users to supplement their virtual worlds. Google also recently released MapMaker to allow users to supplement Google’s mapping data.

I’ve only listed the major product features each company has created; each month there is a release of imagery for a new country or city by each. In July Virtual Earth released imagery for cities in Finland, Belgium, and Japan. All total it was 14. TB; this is nothing compared to the 69TB that May’s release included. Google’s latest updates brought Streetview to Japan (the first international site), mapping data of Georgia, and fresh satellite imagery for the Olympics.

I expect this battle to continue and for we as consumers to benefit. I really love and appreciate the products these two companies make and subsidize. I am not sure when the one-upmanship will end, but personally I am not looking forward to it.

(Thanks to @boblozano for the GeoEye-1 back story and links)

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