World's Highest-Resolution Satellite Imagery

If you ever have that nagging feeling that you are being watched, you might not be wrong. But with your watcher being 423 miles above you, you might have a hard time confirming your suspicions. And while being spied upon from such a distance may seem like not much detail can be realized, you might be in for a surprise--the GeoEye-1 Satellite, which just achieved "full operational capability certification from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency" (NGA), can capture images on the ground down to 0.41 meters (or about 16 inches). GeoEye claims that the GeoEye-1 now delivers "the world's highest resolution, most-accurate satellite imagery."

"Half-meter resolution image of Khalifa Sports City, Doha,
Qatar, was collected by the GeoEye-1 satellite on January
 10, 2009"
(Credit: GeoEye)
The GeoEye-1 Satellite was launched last September, and "transmitted its first, full color half-meter ground resolution images" a month later. GeoEye-1 is part of the Department of Defense's (DoD) NextView program, which "is designed to ensure that the NGA has access to commercial imagery in support of its mission to provide timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security." By funding commercial satellite technology, the DoD ensures that the technological advances in satellite and imagery technology can serve both military and commercial interests. Only military sources, however, have access to images captured at the satellite's maximum ground resolution of 0.41 meters; Commercial clients' images are re-sampled at a 0.5-meter resolution.

Images captured at the GeoEye-1's maximum ground resolution of 0.41 meters are captured using a panchromatic (black-and-white) sensor; the GeoEye-1's maximum color ground resolution is 1.65 meters (or about 64 inches)--the satellite's electronics can process 700-million pixels-per-second. The GeoEye-1 is in a sun-synchronous, polar-orbit, traveling at 7.5km/sec (about 16,800-mph), and it can collect "up to 700,000 square kilometers in a single day, an area about the size of Texas, and in the multispectral mode 350,000 square kilometers per day; the equivalent of photographing in color the entire State of New Mexico." The GeoEye-1 makes just under 15 orbits per day (it has a 98-minute period) and can revisit virtually any location in less than three days.

GeoEye-1 started delivering imagery to commercial customers as of February 5, and now that the NGA has certified GeoEye-1 for its needs, the satellite is officially delivering images to the NGA as of today. Now that it is officially online for the NGA, GeoEye-1 will begin generating $12.5 million per month in revenue from the NGA for GeoEye. GeoEye's chief operating officer, Bill Schuster, stated, "we are already working on the advanced camera and camera electronics for GeoEye-2 and look forward to continuing to serve NGA with next-generation capabilities."
Via:  GeoEye
3vi1 5 years ago

>> "The GeoEye-1 makes just under 15 orbits per day (it has a 98-minute period), can revisit virtually any location in less than three days, and because of its sun-synchronous orbit, it is always about 10:30 am local time below the satellite."

It must be powered by an infinite improbability engine.

I mean, how else could you photograph a location where it's 10:30am local time, then 1.63 hours later be on the opposite side of the planet where it is now... 10:30am local time.

newyorkdan 5 years ago

Hmmmm... An Excellent point... I think I will cut that line from the story.

Riks 5 years ago

Think you're all forgetting about something here.. MAGIC.

newyorkdan 5 years ago


"GeoEye-1 makes 15 orbits per day flying at an altitude of 681 kilometers or 423 miles with an orbital velocity of about 7.5 km/sec or 16,800 mi/hr. Its sun-synchronous orbit allows it to pass over a given area at about 10:30 a.m. local time every day. Given its altitude and sun-synchronous orbit, field of view and superior resolution GeoEye-1 can “revisit” any point on the globe every three days or sooner, depending upon the required look angle."

newyorkdan 5 years ago

And lot's not forget that the satellite has a polar orbit (pole-to-pole). From Wikipedia (

"A sun-synchronous orbit (sometimes incorrectly called a heliosynchronous orbit) is a geocentric orbit which combines altitude and inclination in such a way that an object on that orbit passes over any given point of the Earth's surface at the same local solar time. The surface illumination angle will be nearly the same every time. This consistent lighting is a useful characteristic for satellites that image the earth's surface in visible or infrared wavelengths (e.g. weather, spy and remote sensing satellites). For example, a satellite in sun-synchronous orbit might cross the equator twelve times a day each time at approximately 15:00 local time. This is achieved by having the orbital plane of the orbit precess (rotate) approximately one degree each day, eastward, to keep pace with the Earth's revolution around the sun."

AjayD 5 years ago

[quote user="News"]"Half-meter resolution image of Khalifa Sports City, Doha,
Qatar, was collected by the GeoEye-1 satellite on January
 10, 2009"[/quote]


Since the maximum color ground resolution is 1.65 meters, it is impossible that the image in the article was taken at half-meter resolution.


Minor discrepencies aside, I would be amazed if this is truly the best satellite that the government has at their disposal. At least I am sure that it is not the only one of its kind. I would think that imformation pertaining to spy satellites would be highly classified, and I doubt the government is going to readily show their hand, so to speak.

acarzt 5 years ago

How do the images from google earth compare? What resolution where those taken in?

3vi1 5 years ago

>> How do the images from google earth compare.

Some of the Google images are much, much, much, higher resolution. Zoom in on the men in this village, for instance:,20.0065048096995&t=h&z=19

Of course, that's the benefit of using aerial photography in addition to satellite images. :)

vicaphit 5 years ago

Yes, the men in that village realized that the satellite was taking a picture, and decided to look up.

3vi1 5 years ago

You didn't read the last line of my message, did you? :)

dmross 4 years ago

Get real! It's common knowledge inside the beltway that satellite color imagery with resolution to 0.25cm exists on VIDEO, For static color photos resolution can go down to 3mm. For black/white static photos you are talking of resolution down to .05mm - a crystal sharp image of a face, a licence plate, serial numbers on weapons, etc.

quickmatch 7 months ago

dmross: I'd love to see your basis for claims of 0.25 cm color and 0.05 mm B&W images from space. The Hubble telescope with its 2.4 meter mirror can resolve about 0.1 arc second while peering into space; atmospheric distortion would reduce the effective resolution. Resolving 1 cm detail from 100 miles up would require resolving power of better than 0.02 arc seconds, or a mirror of about five times the diameter of Hubble--12 meters. For the resolution you claim (0.05 cm) the mirror would have to be twenty times greater yet--240 meters, about 2-1/2 football fields. Really!

grayaudio 4 years ago


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