The federal government has cleared DigitalGlobe to sell its highest-available resolution Earth images, a move that could open up $400 million in new business for the company.
The Longmont-based satellite imagery company had petitioned the government to lift what it felt were onerous restrictions.
Wednesday's ruling will allow the company to fully utilize its technological capabilities, which DigitalGlobe has long said it needs to remain the industry's leader in a rapidly evolving field.
"How important is it to have the higher resolution? Extremely," DigitalGlobe CEO Jeffrey Tarr said at a news conference last month. "More customers buy as they push us for resolution and accuracy and spectral diversity."
DigitalGlobe expects the resolution relief to lead to new market opportunities, particularly internationally. The company said this policy change may lead to a bolstering of its workforce, which is currently at 1,300.
The news comes as DigitalGlobe prepares for the August launch of WorldView-3, the most advanced Earth imagery satellite in the U.S.
WorldView-3 can produce 31-centimeter-resolution images, and several of its already-orbiting satellites already can capture 41-centimeter images. But DigitalGlobe was prohibited, until Wednesday, from selling anything sharper than 50-centimeter resolution to non-U.S. government customers.
The 31-centimeter resolution images allow viewers to discern, for example, the windshield of a car and the direction the car is facing.
Letitia Long, the head of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — DigitalGlobe's largest customer — told attendants at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs last month that it was only a matter of time before the government cleared industry to compete on a level playing field with international competitors.
"We certainly wouldn't want to hinder anyone," she said.
Beyond clarity, the company's new 6,200-pound bird — built by Boulder-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies — offers short-wave infrared resolution that sees through dust, smog and smoke as well as things on Earth invisible to the naked eye.
DigitalGlobe executives told The Denver Post last month that its new sensors allow them to see minerals, identify tree and plant species and gather soil composition. When analyzed, this information can decipher what's beneath the surface — insight that can then be sold to industries including mining or oil and gas exploration.
The stock market reacted to the news with the company's shares jumping Wednesday. Its shares closed at $31.58, up 21 percent from a year low of $26.02 on April 11.