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Rocket: Delta 2
Payload: WorldView 2
Date: Oct. 8, 2009
Time: 11:38-11:52 a.m. PDT (2:38-2:52 p.m. EDT)
Site: SLC-2W, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

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Satellite launched to give truer view of the world
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: October 8, 2009


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A company that scans the world with its high-resolution imaging satellites launched another spacecraft Thursday, one that promises to reveal Earth's true colors for commercial mapping and monitoring.


Credit: Gene Blevins/LA Daily News
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The WorldView 2 satellite was blasted into orbit atop a two-stage Delta 2 rocket built by United Launch Alliance and marketed by Boeing, leaving its coastal pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 11:51 a.m. local (2:51 p.m. EDT; 1851 GMT).

Flying south toward a sun-synchronous orbit circling the planet from pole to pole, the ever-trustworthy rocket successfully deployed the satellite after a 62-minute ascent.

The spacecraft becomes the third Earth imager operated by DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colorado, joining the QuickBird and WorldView 1 satellites launched aboard Delta 2 rockets in 2001 and 2007, respectively, and still snapping digital pictures for their worldwide clientele.

At the moment of today's launch, QuickBird was orbiting 245 nautical miles over western Russia and WorldView 1 was flying 267 nautical miles above the Pacific Ocean having just crossed the western U.S.

"With the addition of WorldView 2, an impressive third component of our constellation, DigitalGlobe will have increased capacity, which is expected to improve the speed with which we deliver our imagery products to our customers and provide more frequent refresh of our ImageLibrary to support a range of monitoring, analysis and decision-making services," said Jill Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of DigitalGlobe.

What's special about WorldView 2 is the capability to image in eight different color bands, which is double the number on earlier satellites. The result will be the next step in the commercial Earth-imagery business, by taking the sharp clarity and painting the pictures in the truest natural colors.

"At this time, there isn't another satellite which combines high-resolution with eight bands and the level of agility that we get from the WorldView-class satellite," a DigitalGlobe spokesperson told Spaceflight Now.

The added colors promise to heighten the amount of information and insights that can be extracted for uses such as diagnosing the health of crops, determining the impact of natural disasters and identifying features for national security.

"Not only will these bands help with vegetation but it will also allow for improved classification of man-made structures such as buildings, roads and infrastructure," DigitalGlobe says.

"With the increased level of detail, there any many uses such as helping to improve the understanding of global warming on sustainable land and resources, tracking the impact of pollution, improving natural resource management and exploration, and protecting and monitoring agricultural development and sustainability."

Commercial imaging satellites have a range of customers, including the U.S. government for intelligence-gathering, as well as urban planners, real estate developers, oil and gas firms, environmental interests and supplying pictures to online sites like Google Earth.

DigitalGlobe's main rival in the U.S. is the GeoEye company, which launched its latest satellite atop a Delta 2 rocket a year ago.


An artist's concept of WorldView 2 shows the satellite high above Earth. Credit: Ball Aerospace
 
Orbiting the Earth every 100 minutes at an altitude of 415 nautical miles, WorldView 2 must first undergo post-launch calibration and accuracy tests to verify its performance before entering service for a life designed to last more than 7 years. The first commercial imagery should be available in about 90 days.

"It will give us nearly twice our current collection capacity, it will allow us to collect nearly three times the Earth's land mass," the company says.

"Large-scale infusion of fresh, up-to-date imagery broadens the appeal for satellite imagery in emerging commercial applications as well as creating increased value for the sophisticated, professional users who will take advantage of the higher detail and definition from eight-band multispectral capabilities."

The three-ton spacecraft, built by Ball Aerospace, has an optical telescope to see objects as small as 18 inches across in its black and white imagery and 72 inches for color imagery.

The satellite uses gyroscopes for its advanced control system and is equipped with a vibration-dampening system to reduce jitter. The craft is 14 feet tall and has a wing span of 23 feet with its power-generating solar arrays unfurled.

"The successful launch of WorldView 2 marks a new milestone for the collection of imagery by these highly sophisticated satellites," said David Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace.

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VIDEO: DELTA ROCKET LAUNCHES WORLDVIEW 2 PLAY
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