Fantastic news - why can't all countries be this sensible?
Well done Oz!
Australia will publish images captured by soon-to-launch satellite Landsat 8 online, in close to real time, for free. Landsat 8 will launch in early 2013 and is expected to be fully operational by May or June of that year. Once the bird begins beaming back images, Geoscience Australia (GA) will publish them online under the …
This really is a big thing. I remember arguing for this access 15 years ago, but at the time the government agencies were required to make a token profit, and charged for anything they did that was actually useful. This initiative will make a huge difference as it becomes possible to perform useful analysis on data, and build a business on doing this analysis without the impost of what were what significant charges for access to the data. Access for fundamental research will be similarly enhanced.
The thing is that "Blighty" doesn't really own any of this type of thing (AFAIK). Blighty does go and buy the stuff that it wants on the commercial market, but that obviously comes with rights to use it, and the pricing would be prohibitive if they wanted to just give it away free; there would be no market left.
Spot image runs quite a lot of the services and are just about to launch another new sat to carry on when the old ones stop working. You can see a fair amount of their imagery free on Google Earth, and if you get the paid option, you can get things like better imagery and selecting which imagery, rather than just the latest.
Probably OZ gets a very good deal because having a ground station there adds considerably to the data they can capture each orbit, so both OZ and the US do nicely out of the deal. In theory it could also spoil the market for SPOT imaging who are self financing 2 of their new sats, but since they can offer resolutions as high as 50cm, they might still have a market.
Why bother, an F-18's wingspan is 14m, good luck discerning pixels*. I suppose it could be useful for getting an idea of troops, ships & aircraft being ready to be deployed, but one can normally tell that from volume of traffic (noise) and personnel.
Air bases in Afghanistan - I'm sure that humint resources are the main risk.
* At 100m/px, it'll be a case of "oh look, there's a runway there", stuff that's already known.
There are lots and lots of US bases in Oz, 50 years ago, it was about 15 or so. They do/did/do things like U2 flights, talk to subs, listen to telephones, and watch over you. There is a new US base just opened for business in Darwin. That one is for cane toad control. This bird has little to do with any of them. It is more useful for mapping wheat when it is ready for harvest, floods and fires and where to dig next.
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