High-res image satellite launched from California can capture objects size of dinner plate

Posted:   08/13/2014 01:52:22 PM PDT

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A satellite designed to produce high-resolution images of Earth from space was launched Wednesday from a military base on California’s Central Coast.

The commercial satellite known as Worldview-3 was sent into space atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a clear day from Vandenberg Air Force Base, military and company officials said.

Worldview-3 belongs to Longmont, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe and was built by Boulder-based Ball Aerospace. Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance are also partners in the $500 million project.

DigitalGlobe says the satellite will be able to capture images of objects as small as 1-foot across, but government regulations prevent selling images with resolution finer than required for an object of about 20 inches.

“From 400 miles we can see home plate of a baseball stadium,” said DigitalGlobe Vice President for Technology Neal Anderson.

DigitalGlobe is hoping for federal approval to sell higher-resolution images, Walter Scott, founder and chief technical officer of the Longmont-based company, said when the satellite was undergoing its final tests in May.

The best resolution for the company’s five satellites already in orbit is about 16 inches, Scott said.

The company provides images for government and private customers, including national security and defense agencies, NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and civil emergency responders.

The 18-foot-long, 8-foot-wide satellite has a design life of seven years, but satellites often last about twice as long as their design life, Ball Aerospace said.