geoinformatics 2007 vol06

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  • Coming Soon:

    GeoEyes Next-Generation Color Satel

    In the months ahead a commercial Earth imaging satellite, GeoEye-1, will be launched by GeoEye Inc. It will provide the

    highest resolution and most advanced collection capabilities of any commercial remote sensing system. The satellite will

    acquire high-quality panchromatic and multispectral imagery at spatial resolutions of 0.41-meters in the panchromatic

    mode and 1.64-meters in the multispectral mode, respectively, and collect hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of

    map-accurate imagery in a single day.

    By Kevin Corbley

    As a comparison, GeoEye-1 will be much larg-er than IKONOS, the world's first high-resolu-tion commercial imaging satellite launched in1999 by then Space Imaging. GeoEye wasformed in January 2006 when Orbimage pur-chased the assets of Colorado-based SpaceImaging. The newly formed company is nowknown as GeoEye and its headquarters is in theWashington D.C. area. The IKONOS satelliteweighs 1,600 pounds, while GeoEye-1 will tipthe scales at more than 4,000 pounds, collec -ting imagery as it moves 425 miles (684 kilo-meters) above the earth at about 17,000 milesper hour.

    A Team of PartnersTo bring about such a major endeavor, GeoEyepresident and CEO Matthew O'Connell assem-bled a team of partners to develop and launchGeoEye-1. Gilbert, Arizona-based GeneralDynamics/Advanced Information Systems serves

    as the prime contractor and integrator for thesatellite's bus and telescope. To develop a camera capable of acquiring imagery at 41-cen-timeter spatial resolution (16 inches), GeoEyeturned to ITT, formerly Kodak Remote SensingSystems, which also built the IKONOS sensor.The satellite will be lifted into orbit on a BoeingDelta II launch vehicle from Vandenberg AirForce Base in California.Following the launch of GeoEye-1, the satellitewill undergo about 45-60 days of calibrationand checkout. Once the satellite is declaredoperational, it will begin a three-month imaging operation mostly dedicated to meeting the needs of the Pentagons NationalGeospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). For themost part, imagery collected during this periodwill also be made available in the companyarchive for commercial sale. GeoEye will takecommercial orders during this timeframe andfulfil them as soon as possible.

    While GeoEye-1 will be able to collect imageryat 41-centimeter ground resolution, imagery forcommercial customers will be re-sampled to halfmeter resolution before sale. This is due to current U.S. government licensing restrictions.However, GeoEye is seeking a waiver to theirlicense in order to be able to provide the highest resolution imagery to governmental customers in some countries. For example, inthe European region, GeoEye has requested thatPoland be able to have direct access to GeoEye-1 and governmental customers there be able toutilize 41-centimeter imagery.

    On June 29, 2007, the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA) notified allU.S. commercial imagery providers that the 24hours hold rule for imagery better than the res-olution of the IKONOS satellite (.82-meter) hasbeen lifted. This licensing restriction was originally created early in the history of the

    September 20076

    Interv iew

    GeoEye-1, shown here in an artists rendering,

    will offer the highest resolution and most

    advanced collection capabilities of any

    commercial imaging satellite.

    Prod_GEO_6_2007:Prod GEO66 24-08-2007 13:59 Pagina 6

  • commercial remote sensing industry. This willenable space-based commercial imageryproviders to sell imagery from current and nextgeneration satellites immediately upon collec-tion.

    Mapping in OrbitThe GeoEye-1 satellite fundamentally will be amapping machine in orbit, explains MarkBrender, GeoEye's vice president of communi-cations and marketing. We will be able to offercommercial customers half-meter resolutioncolor imagery with the most accurate geo-location accuracy ever achieved in a com mercialspace-based system, he said. GeoEye recently acquired M.J. Harden, an aerialimaging and geospatial firm in Mission, Kansas.The firm flies two aircraft, one with a digitalmapping camera, and the other with a newLiDAR imaging system. The combination ofaerial and satellite imagery will be a powerful

    meter multi-spectral in theblue, green, red, and near-infrared bands, the satellitewill enable clients to identifysmall objects and features ata level of detail never avail-able before from commercialimaging satellites. At thatresolution, you can count themanholes on a city street ordiscern home plate on abaseball diamond. Geo -spatial data users in thedefense and intelligence, oiland gas, insurance, urbanplanning, utility, and carto-graphic disciplines- all ofwhich traditionally map small

    features-are expected to expand their use ofsatellite imagery as a result.It's anticipated that online search engines suchas Yahoo!, Google Earth, and Microsoft VirtualEarth also will be anxious to import consistenthigh resolution color imagery over large areas.In addition, though satellite and aerial imagesoften are complementary, GeoEye expects manytraditional users of aerial imagery to jump tosatellites for applications requiring half-meterresolution, especially in parts of the worldwhere it's difficult to deploy an aircraft due toweather, political, or security issues.But there's more to good imagery than spatialresolution, notes Lee Demitry, GeoEye's vicepresident of engineering. People are going tobe stunned with the sharpness and clarity ofthis imagery, he predicts, explaining that overall image quality, most often defined by thesharpness of feature boundaries, is just as critical as spatial resolution to many applica-tions. The camera builder, ITT, has employednew technological advancements to achieve thislevel of image quality. The large size of thetelescope's primary mirror, the alignment of thecamera telescope, and a favorable (high) signal-to-noise ratio are key design elements inultimately producing high-quality imagery.Geo-location accuracy is another imaging capability GeoEye expects will appeal to endusers across all market segments. This refers tothe precision with which objects in an imagecan be mapped relative to their absolute location on earth's surface. GeoEye-1 will offerthree-meter accuracy, which means end userscan map natural and manmade features in

    tool for mapping and surveying, Brender said.In June of this year GeoEye invested in a privately held company called Spadac. Spadacutilizes geospatial technologies in doing predictive analytics. GeoEye is working closelywith Spadac in offering customers the tools tohelp them take pixels to the next level. SaysBrender, Spadac helps us extract knowledgefrom our pixels and aids our customers in better understanding issues before they becomeproblems.

    Advanced CapabilitiesAs a major customer, NGA will receive prioritytasking and a substantial discount for agreeingto purchase a large volume of imagery. Butample capacity will be dedicated to commercialcustomers and allow the company to build avast archive of imagery in relatively short time.Spatial resolution, geo-location accuracy, andlarge-area coverage are the three specificationscommercial and government customers aremost interested in, says Dave Kenyon, GeoEyesenior director, space segment engineering.And those are the key capabilities we focusedon when building this satellite. Of course, res-olution is the parameter by which most judgeand compare imaging satellites. Frank Koester, vice president and director,Commercial and Space Science Program, ITTSpace Systems Division, says, ITT's integratedcamera payload, including telescope and sensor subsystem, will provide GeoEye-1 withthe highest resolution in commercial remotesensing.Offering 41-centimeter panchromatic and 1.64-

    September 2007Latest News? Visit www.geoinformatics.com 7

    Interv iew

    l lite Imagery

    Once launched GeoEye-1 will be equipped with themost advanced technology ever used in a commercialremote sensing system. The satellite will be able tocollect images at 0.41-meter panchromatic (black &white) and 1.65-meter multispectral resolution. Asshown in the following simulation using IKONOSsatellite imagery (a) and aerial photography (b), thedetailed half-meter imagery will expand the applica-tions for satellite imagery in every commercial andgovernment market.

    [a] [b]

    Prod_GEO_6_2007:Prod GEO66 24-08-2007 13:59 Pagina 7

  • stereo to within three meters of their actuallocations without ground control points.This level of geo-location accuracy will beachieved with the help of three onboard systems: a GPS receiver, gyroscope, and startracker, which will enable the satellite to deter-mine its precise attitude, position, and locationat all times. Such ancillary data will be trans-mitted along with image data back to earth forthe ground segment to use in processing theimagery. Some of these systems, such as thestar tracker, have never flown on commercialsatellites before and were only used on U.S.government imaging satellites. Adds Demitry,The ability to map features with this level ofhorizontal accuracy without any ground controlis for commercial satellites and will be a hugeadvantage- and enormous cost savings-for anycartographic application.

    Prodigious ImageryThe third major technological advancement foundin the GeoEye-1 satellite will be its ability to collect an enormous amount of imagery. In thepanchromatic mode, the satellite will be capableof collecting up to 700,000 square kilometers ina single day and in the multispectral mode350,000 square kilometers per day. This volumeof data collection-more than four times that ofany other existing commercial imaging platform-will be made possible by the agility of the satel-lite itself. The entire satellite will be able to tu