Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Google, with no limits

According to the company, the GeoEye-1 satellite is the highest resolution commercial satellite orbiting the planet right now. It reached orbit yesterday, but in reality, it's notan ordinary commercial satellite: it's fully controlled by the Department of Defense's U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. And two guys named Larry and Sergei.

Part of the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency NextView program, the SUV-sized GeoEye-1 launched yesterday in a Delta II 7326 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California—without exploding. Hours later, GeoEye's ground station in Norway confirmed that the rocket had delivered its payload right on target. The satellite was alive, fully armed and operational on its 423-mile orbit above the Earth.

Built by General Dynamics, the GeoEye-1 is equipped with a next-generation camera made by ITT. This camera can easily distinguish objects 16 inches long, with 11-bits per pixel color. In other words: this thing can see the color of your shorts. It will be up there, looking at your pants every single day, the time it takes for it to complete one orbit. And it will keep doing that for more than ten years, its expected life.

Of course, there's nothing new here until you notice the huge Google logo on the rocket, signaling the fact that Sergei and Larry own the exclusive rights to the GeoEye-1 images. Yes, no other company will be able to access this information, only Google. And they will be there, available for the public in Google Maps and Google Earth.

But don't fret, tin-foil hatters, because Google won't be able to access the highest resolution images because of US government regulations. Sure, the other guys will, but then again, their big bad satellites can see closer than this one. Still, you can rest safe that your underpants will be safe from public scrutiny. For now. Unless you do like me and keep flashing them around