A new high-resolution satellite launched Aug. 13 to deliver best-quality imagery of the planet. DigitalGlobe, a provider of satellite imagery for Google and Google Earth, is launching WorldView-3 from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Those interested can view the live broadcast of the launch online. The satellite successfully launched at 11:30 PDT atop an Atlas 5 rocket.

Among the satellite's new features is its ability to capture images at 31-cm resolution, about a foot. This is the highest resolution commercially available. For example, it can hone in on a car windshield, grab a picture of a license plate, and can even see home plate on a ballfield. The satellite's infrared sensor allows it to take images through haze, fog, dust, smoke and other airborn particulates, which should be a boost for emergency crews fighting forest fires, for example, and for Google.

It will also be able to identify a specific tree's class and species as well as determine if the tree is healthy or not, the company says. In addition, the satellite is capable of determining a number of minerals on the Earth's surface.

The new 31-cm resolution camera satellite comes after the U.S. government relaxed restrictions on commercial satellite imagery.

"As a result of the U.S. government's recent decision to allow us to sell our highest quality imagery, we've seen sufficient demand," said Jeffrey R. Tarr, president and CEO of DigitalGlobe. "This will extend our industry leadership, capture more of our customers' mapping and monitoring missions, provide an even stronger foundation on which to grow our Geospatial Big DataTM and analytic capabilities, and uniquely address pressing global challenges. By placing this asset on orbit where it can generate revenue rather than storing it on the ground, we will improve returns and create shareowner value."

The satellite is expected to reach an altitude of 617 kilometers, or about 383 miles, before it starts its operations, Tech Times reports. The satellite will have an average revisit time of just under a day, which will allow it to take up to 680,000 square kilometers of imagery every day. The data from WorldView-3 will assist in the management of farms and forests and also in the discovery of new sources of minerals and fuels.

The company already has announced its plans to accelerate the launch of WorldView-4, previously named GeoEye-2, to mid-2016 to meet customer demand for its high-resolution images. It moved up the timetable because the U.S. Department of Commerce recently decided to allow DigitalGlobe to sell imagery with resolutions of up to 25 centimeters.

The launch was handled by the United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that was formed in 2006 to provide reliable, cost-efficient access to space for U.S. government missions.

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