Geo-Eye satellite to be used by Google releases first image

Google plans to use high-res images from GeoEye-1 in Google Earth and Google Maps

Google Maps are about to get a lot sharper thanks to GeoEye-1, the world's highest resolution commercial satellite that was launched on September 6 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a rocket carrying the Google logo.

GeoEye Wednesday released the first image shot by cameras aboard GeoEye-1 - which shows the campus of Kutztown University in the US, including its academic buildings, parking lots, roads and athletic buildings and fields. The shot was taken at noon October 7 while GeoEye was moving north to south in a 423-mile high orbit over the US.

Google plans to begin supplementing its Google Earth and Google Maps images with photographs taken from GeoEye-1 an as-yet undisclosed date.

GeoEye plans to begin selling images from GeoEye-1 later this year, it said. Although the satellite can collect images that show details at .41 meters, it can only sell images that show details at .5 meters because of US government restrictions.

"This image captures what is in fact the very first location the satellite saw when we opened the camera door and started imaging," said Brad Peterson, GeoEye's vice president of operations, in a statement. "We expect the quality of the imagery to be even better as we continue the calibration activity."

Rick Turoczy, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that while Google Maps and Google Earth have changed the way people interact with geography, their top-down views of the world have always been "a bit fuzzy and squint-inducing."

"With access to the GeoEye-1 imagery, Google can now begin providing images for Google Maps and Google Earth that will boast a resolution of 50 cm," he added. "That's just shy of two feet. When this new high-resolution imagery becomes available, Google Maps sightseeing will get a great deal more interesting."

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