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Satellite imagery provider Digital Globe is launching its second imaging bird this evening.

World View-1 will provide greater resolution, and more frequent updates, to customers including Google Earth.

Digital Globe currently has one satellite, QuickBird, which photographs great swathes of the planet as it circles, but is limited in its ability to point in the right direction.

World View-1 has gyroscopic targeting to take photos of the right place, and a bewildering 2199 gigabits of solid-state storage to hold the photographs before downloading at 800 Mb/sec when in view of an Earth station.

The resolution of World View-1 is limited to half a metre, the most the US Government will allow for civilian use, good for spotting flying cars and transparent planes, but not the read-a-newspaper-over-someone's-shoulder resolution the military apparently have.

This restriction only applies to satellite images. Photographs from aircraft can be any resolution, which allows such detailed views of popular cities to appear on Google Earth and its ilk.

World View-1 will be joined by World View-2 next year, and should be sending back pictures for at least the next seven years. The launch is scheduled for 19.35 BST, and will be streamed over the internet for the obsessive. ®

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