Google Maps to get better satellite imagery from GeoEye

Search giant Google signed a deal with Dulles, Va. startup GeoEye to use imagery from its newest satellite after it launches in September of this year.

This is not the first time Google has dealt with GeoEye. It already uses images from its IKONOS satellite, as well as from other sources including DigitalGlobe. As part of the new deal, GeoEye would exclusively provide its imagery to Google.

The half-billion dollar satellite is expected to provide the highest resolution images of any imaging satellite currently available. Google would even get a bit of promotion during launch: Its logo appears on the first-stage rocket.

According to the two companies, Google did not pay for the logo to appear on the rocket, nor does it have any direct or indirect financial interest in the launch. It appears the Google logo is only on the rocket in recognition of its support for the project.

GeoEye says it hopes to launch the rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 4. If all goes well, it should be in its proper orbit within an hour-and-a-half of launch.

Imagery will be received by Google beginning in late October or early November, although it's not clear how long it will take for the images to begin to appear on Google Maps. Imagery could conceivably be available at as high as 0.41 meters in black and white, and 1.65 meters in color.

How fine-grained is that? An Italian research project three years ago to study whether it was possible to discern certain types of automobiles that travel around the city of Baghdad (if you work in Baghdad, you'd understand why this is important) from satellite imagery alone, used pictures that had 0.68 meters resolution. And under federal law, only images with as high as 0.5 meters resolution can be used commercially.

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