An Atlas V, making a rare commercial flight, placed the WorldView 3 satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base today.
WorldView 3 is easily the largest and most powerful commercial imaging satellite to date, and also the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution one, for the first time competing with government imagery providers such as the venerable Landsat program. It will be able to photograph in infrared, and it carries a shortwave atmospheric sounder to assist in calibration, another first for a commercial spacecraft. Built by Ball Aerospace around a 1.1 meter telescope built by Exelis, and operated by DigitalGlobe, this will deliver resolution down to 1 foot (31 cm), unprecedented outside of military reconnaissance programs today; conveniently for Digital Globe, they received license from the US Government to sell imagery down to that level to the public.
The rest of the DigitalGlobe fleet are GeoEye 1 (at 41 cm resolution), WorldView 2 at 46 cm, WorldView 1 at 50, QuickBird at 61, and their first and still probably most famous spacecraft, Ikonos, at 82 cm resolution. All are still in service today. WorldView 3 has a design lifetime of at least 7 years, and should operate much longer.