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DigitalGlobe to lower the altitude of WorldView-2

Paris, France: DigitalGlobe will lower the altitude of its WorldView-2 spacecraft, launched in 2009, to enhance spacecraft performance. The company has made this announcement barely days after ordering a new spacecraft for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) EnhancedView initiative.

The move, set for September 2011, will drop the satellite to 680 km from 770 km. To compensate, engineers will add a few additional ground terminals to the current network of a dozen or so stations, Mark Ashwell, VP for International Strategy, informed a recent remote-sensing forum organised by Euroconsult.

According to Stephen Wood, company VP for US defence sales, the orbital shift will improve spatial resolution to 41 cm at nadir, versus 46 cm now, without affecting the satellite’s 7.25-year mission life. A potential second shift to 496 km, contemplated after September 2013, would bring resolution down to 30 cm. Resolution for commercial customers will remain at 50 cm as prescribed by NGA.

Wood said that the changes originated within DigitalGlobe and are motivated by the search for a “new sweet spot” to better meet NGA requirements, not any NGA dissatisfaction with performance.

DigitalGlobe is not saying how much either the space or ground segment expansion will cost, but it plans to lay out USD 625 million for capital spending through 2014, when WorldView-3 is to be launched, including outlays for the satellite.

Source: Aviation Week