New Google Earth Satellite Launching Today

[UPDATE 1630 EDT: The launch of the satellite on a Delta 2 rocket was successful! Here are some photos of the launch from SpaceFlight Now. It will be a few months before the satellite is fully tested, begins operational status, and photos start appearing in Google Earth – read below for more details.]

DigitalGlobe WorldView satellite in Google EarthDigitalGlobe (DG) is the company with the largest contract to provide satellite photography to Google Earth and Maps. Today, DG is launching the first of two new satellites, called WorldView I and II, with better technologies to provide resolution up to 50 cm / pixel, enhanced data speeds, and better quality data. WorldView II is expected to be launched in late-2008. Once WorldView I is fully deployed and tested, DG says the satellite will enable it to acquire data at about 7 times the current rate. See details from this ZDNet story.

Boeing is the company launching the satellite today from the Vandenburg AFB launch site. See the launch site here in Google Earth. You can watch the rocket launch live today between 11:15 and 11:49 AM PDT (that’s 1415 EDT) as a web cast. Visit this Boeing site for details. After the launch window, a web cast recording will be available by tomorrow.

Those of you who are eager to see more Google Earth imagery should realize it typically takes about 6 months for a satellite to be fully tested after its launch before new data becomes available for use. This new satellite will not mean Google Earth will suddenly have live data. It will still be typically several weeks to a few months before new data is put into Google Earth. In addition, the satellite is still dependent on having the right weather conditions before getting a good photo (no clouds, haze, smoke, dust, right angle of the sun) worth putting into Google Earth. But, the faster data acquisition should speed things up some. Having more satellites will definitely improve the chances for new data.

The new satellite is limited to releasing images for commercial use at no higher than 50 cm resolution by government restrictions. Most of the high resolution satellite imagery is already at 60 – 100 cm resolution. So, this new satellite imagery will at best be slightly higher resolution. Google Earth also has acquired higher resolution aerial imagery (e.g. taken from planes) that is as high as 5 cm resolution (see Las Vegas for example). Although details haven’t been made available, it is possible the satellite is capable of higher resolution imagery. Maybe someday the government will allow higher resolution imagery to be sold.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. As much as I love Google Earth and its affiliation with Digital Globe, I think it’s semi-pretentious to call it a “Google Earth Satellite.” Last time I checked, DG imagery can and has been used in numerous geospatial applications prior to Google Earth’s release.
    That being said, I’m looking forward to the enhanced resolution available in WorldView I and II.

  2. I went to the DigitalGlobe site but their image archive tool was broken, didn’t work on either Firefox 2 or IE7. I sent them an email about it.
    The DigitalGlobe site suggested I go to MapMart. Their tool was a little better, though sometimes it gave me a black screen as I was searching. Finally I got to the object of my search: Bukovel Ski Area in Ukraine. But there wasn’t imagery available except for that crappy 15 meter stuff from Landsat (I guess).
    Anyway, the point is, will this new satellite be making hi-res images available of everywhere in the world, or just select places?


  4. azmathabib says:

    it is difficult to use the facility

  5. pls teach me how get the real view using gogle earth coz i find it dificult to navigate i also love its features

  6. pls i will like to get the full view of the globe using google,inorder to get street direction ,political state of countries,geographical analysis of the globe and more about countries

Leave a Reply