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Non-military satellite views Earth

A private satellite has started returning the most detailed, freely available pictures ever taken of our planet.

Quickbird is the world’s highest-resolution, commercial, imaging satellite and its first images show details never before seen by a non-military satellite.

“To say that we are pleased with the quality of the imagery is an understatement. We are thrilled,” says Herb Satterlee, president and chief executive officer of DigitalGlobe, the company that runs the satellite. “The consistent feedback from our customers who have seen the imagery is that we have taken the commercial satellite imaging industry to a new level.”

The satellite was launched on 18th October 2001, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a Boeing Delta rocket into a 450-kilometre- (280-mile-) high orbit. It will begin full commercial operations in July 2002.

Applications for this imagery include detailed mapping, resource management, urban planning, telecommunications, and agriculture.

Following its orbital checkout, Quickbird began producing black-and-white pictures showing objects down to 61 centimetres (2 feet) across. Quickbird is also able to produce colour images down to 2.4 metres (8 feet) in size.