The GeoEye-1 satellite was successfully launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket over the weekend, according to GeoEye Inc. officials. The two-ton satellite will orbit 423 miles above Earth's surface while capturing images specifically for online mapping.
"ULA is pleased to have successfully launched the GeoEye-1 satellite for our GeoEye and Boeing Launch Systems customers," ULA vice president of the Delta Product Line Jim Sponnick said in a statement released to the press. "We are excited to be part of the team that built and launched this advanced satellite technology, which will ultimately provide the highest-resolution view of our home planet ever available to scientists, businesses, the US government, and private citizens."
The United States government, Google, and others will be able to use the high-resolution camera aboard the satellite for satellite imagery to be used for Google Earth, Google Maps, and similar programs. The GeoEye-1 is now the world's highest resolution, commercial Earth-imaging satellite, with its main ground station located in Norway.
GeoEye-1 is part of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's NextView program, a government organization aimed at providing updated and accurate intelligence satellite images for use by the National Security Agency and other government intelligence organizations.
Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were at Vandenberg AFB to watch the launch live.
Most commercial satellite images available have a resolution of 61 centimeters, while the GeoEye-1 can capture images at 41 centimeters. Due to a GeoEye license with the federal government, Google will be able to use the images with a resolution of 50 centimeters.
The satellite is "performing properly" and is going to be prepped for the next satellite phase before it can begin work. GeoEye will make the satellite undergo a mandatory calibration period where several tests will be run before commercial images will be captured for use by the public.
GeoEye already has plans to launch the GeoEye-2 satellite in 2011.