The quality of commercial space-based imagery is about to take a quantum leap forward with yesterday's successful launch of the Worldview-3 satellite. It's powerful enough to count chickens from orbit. It's a true monster machine. The commercial satellite imaging market is a sparsely populated but extremely lucrative market.
It's worth an estimated £240 million annually and, until recently, included only two companies: DigitalGlobe and GeoEye. With DigitalGlobe's recent acquisition of GeoEye however, has left the market as a natural monopoly. The current generation of Earth-facing imaging platforms employed by these firms is limited, not by technology but by government regulation, at a resolution of 41 cm for images sold commercially. However, once DigitalGlobe became the only game in town, it set about successfully lobbying the Feds to relax the regulation limits to 25 cm, about a foot wide. That's a huge deal.