Satellite Imagery: Low Cost Commercial Mapping

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I a return to regular posting on The Shelf we are re visiting the topic that we have become synonymous with reporting on. New Technologies.

A UK based company has today announced that through a unique satellite design, it can dramatically lower the cost of high resolution space imagery.

The satellite would be able to map the surface of the Earth a resolution that has only previously been found in virtual globe programs, at 60cm/pixel.

Similar systems have previously been built at huge expense, with the cost of putting up a conventional satellite nearing the $500 million mark. With a unique design the company has estimated this system could be launched for as little as $70 million.

The company that launches this system, SSTL, has recently been bought by EADS Astrium, Europe’s largest space firm.

“This is an exciting development for us; we’ve been studying the idea for over a year now,” – Philip Davies, business development manager with SSTL

He went on to say that. . .

“You could produce extremely good maps with the data from this spacecraft. In terms of the satellite, we are looking at about one-tenth of the cost of a normal satellite.”.

Commercial mapping is a fast growing industry with the emergence of Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, TomTom sat nav systems and Nokia maps to name but a few.

To date the image data that has fed these systems is partially funded by the US government. The development of the system from SSTL changes the face of this, where relatively small businesses could launch their own systems, holding exclusive image rights.

As well as loosening of control of image rights, there is also a commercial savings that can be made, with imagery costing as little as $0.15 per sq km as opposed to $20.


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