September 1, 2008

GeoEye To Provide Google With Satellite Imagery

On Thursday, GeoEye Inc announced that it will provide images from its new $502 million GeoEye-1 satellite to Google Maps and Google Earth once the spacecraft is launched on September 4.

Mark Brender, GeoEye spokesman, said the Google logo was on the first stage of the Delta II rocket that will launch the new satellite.  The GeoEye-1 will provide the highest resolution imagery available in the commercial market.

"Google is interested in collecting the highest quality satellite imagery available and as a symbol of this commitment has agreed to put the company logo on the first stage of our launch vehicle," Brender said.

Brender also added that Google did not pay to have its logo on the rocket, and does not have any direct or indirect financial interest in the satellite.

If all goes as planned, GeoEye's new satellite will be the world's highest resolution commercial earth-imaging satellite.  It will provide black and white images at a resolution of .41 meters, and color images at 1.65 meters.

Under current government regulations, GeoEye can only provide images at resolutions no bigger than half a meter.

Kate Hurowitz, Google spokeswoman, said Google would begin receiving images in the next 45 to 60 days.

"The combination of GeoEye's high-resolution, map-accurate satellite imagery from GeoEye-1 and Google's search and display capabilities provides users with access to rich, interactive visual image maps of the Earth," Hurowitz said. Hurowitz gave no information on the financial terms of the agreement.

Currently Google uses images collected by another GeoEye satellite, IKONOS, and also receives images from Digital Globe, GeoEye's main rival.

DigitalGlobe's newest satellite, WorldView-1, was launched in late 2007 and offers half-meter resolution images, but only in black and white.

According to Brender, Google will continue to receive images from other image providers, but GeoEye will work exclusively for Google.

GeoEye has quadrupled its work force and reported large revenue and profit increases since going public in September 2006.

Its share plummeted in recent months due to the delay of the GeoEye-1 satellite, which was originally planned to launch in April, but was postponed due to orders from the Pentagon's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

GeoEye Chief Executive Matthew O'Connell believes the launch of GeoEye-1 will help spur U.S. government orders, and buoy the company's share.  GeoEye predicts more growth over the next five years.

On Thursday, GeoEye's shares rose 2.4 percent to $23.18 but remains well below it's 52-week high of $37.37 in January.


Image Caption: Ayers Rock (Uluru) rock formation, Northern Territory, Australia. Satellite image by GeoEye.


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