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eNewsletter April 2010

Space Data Center Formed for SSA

The Space Data Association Ltd. (SDA) has selected Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) to develop and operate its Space Data Center (SDC), an automated space situational awareness (SSA) system designed to reduce the risks of on-orbit collisions and radio frequency interference. The SDC is the satellite industry’s first global operator-led network for sharing high-accuracy operational data to improve overall space situational awareness and satellite operations.

Built on AGI’s commercial software, the SDC will provide SDA members networked access to operational capabilities through a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The SDC will automatically ingest and process operator- orbital data, perform conjunction assessments, and generate automated warning alerts. It will also support avoidance maneuver planning, RFI mitigation and data sharing.

For the past two years AGI's research arm, the Center for Space Standards & Innovation (CSSI), has operated SOCRATES-GEO/LEO, a service similar to the SDC that delivers conjunction assessments of more than 250 satellites to participating commercial satellite operators. AGI brings this background and expertise to the SDA, where it will serve as chief technology adviser.

AGI CEO Paul Graziani noted, "Space grows more crowded by the day, and the community has long needed to share high-accuracy, critical operational data so it can make better-informed decisions about its spacecraft. As the SDA grows and fosters tighter cooperation among commercial operators and government entities, it will make space safer for everyone." See www.agi.com.


Airborne 1 to be Acquired by GeoDigital

GeoDigital International has agreed to acquire Airborne 1 Corporation, merging the former’s helicopter-based LiDAR and street-level mapping with the latter’s broad-area mapping capabilities to offer the full spectrum of LiDAR and complex oblique data for their surveying, mapping and engineering clients. In addition, tools for fusing data (including real-time video streams), and delivery via the web will bring final products to clients in shorter timeframes. See www.airborne1.com; www.geodigital.net.

Rear Admiral David W. Titley
Oceanographer and Navigator
of the Navy

Forum on Earth Observations IV to Highlight Climate, Energy and National Security

The tenet that you must measure to manage has never been more applicable than today given the challenges of climate change and its implications for energy and national security. To successfully manage, decisions makers in both the public and private sectors must have free and open access to the latest and most up-to-date information about our planet.

The June 9, 2010, Forum on Earth Observations IV in Washington, D.C., will bring together key government representatives, leading entrepreneurs and innovators to highlight our nation's need for systematic, targeted and sustained Earth observations as a critical component for successful management at local, regional, national and international scales. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy;
  • Phil DeCola, Chief Science Officer, Sigma Space Corporation;
  • Dina Kruger, Director, Climate Change Division, EPA.

For more on the Forum, including the latest confirmed speakers, program information and to register, please visit www.forumoneo4.com.

NOAA Positions Key Weather Satellite, Takes First Image from Newest Satellite

On April 15, the GOES-13 spacecraft, owned and operated by NOAA, became the official GOES-EAST satellite, perched 22,300 miles above the equator in a prime location to spot potentially life-threatening weather affecting the eastern half of the United States, including tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. GOES-13 replaced GOES-12, which NOAA is shifting to provide coverage for South America, as part of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. GOES-11 will continue to monitor the western half of the United States in the GOES-WEST position.

GOES-13, launched in May 2006, is the first of three new NOAA geostationary environmental satellites in orbit. Of the two other spacecraft in the series, GOES-14, launched in June 2009, remains in orbital storage and ready for activation if one of the operational GOES fails. GOES-15, launched in March 2010, is undergoing tests before completing its "check-out" phase in late summer. After five more months of tests, NASA will officially hand over GOES-15 to NOAA, which will place it in orbital storage mode.

GOES-15 recently captured its first image of Earth. The black and white full-disk image shows North and South America with a storm system visible across the United States, indicated by a drape of clouds from New England westward to the Central Plains; further west is a cold front over the Rocky Mountains; mostly clear skies are seen over the mid-Atlantic, southeastern United States, Gulf of Mexico, California, and Mexico. (Editor's note: This image is printed in the Spring issue of Imaging Notes.

Since the first GOES launched in 1974, these satellites have supplied the data critical for fast, accurate weather forecasts and warnings. The newer GOES satellites help relay distress signals from emergency beacons and are equipped to monitor solar activity, which can impact billions of dollars worth of government and commercial assets in space and on the ground. NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. NOAA manages the operational environmental satellite program and establishes requirements, provides all funding, and distributes environmental satellite data for the United States. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, procures and manages the development and launch of the satellites for NOAA on a cost-reimbursable basis. See www.noaa.gov

ERDAS Releases LPS eATE Terrain Generation Module

ERDAS has released LPS eATE, a new module for generating high-resolution terrain information from stereo imagery, enabling users to model their worlds with point clouds from imagery. The module is an add-on to LPS, an integrated suite of workflow-oriented photogrammetry software tools for production mapping, including the generation of digital terrain models, orthophoto production, and 3D feature extraction. Automating precision measurement, maintaining accuracy, and including flexible operations such as image mosaicking, LPS increases productivity while ensuring high accuracy.

With sensors achieving increasingly higher resolutions, LPS eATE maximizes their potential to generate high-density, accurate results. From satellite to airborne frame and pushbroom sensor technologies, in a wide variety of terrain conditions (requiring different densities and output formats), LPS eATE comprehensively meets project requirements. Easily scalable, it is a solution for both small and large terrain generation jobs. LPS eATE utilizes the power of multi-core computer systems and supports parallel processing across a networked group of computers.

LPS eATE also includes tools for producing LAS point clouds and supports the ability to visualize imagery in 3D by associating RGB values with terrain points in a LAS file. Additionally, the output point clouds can be classified and automatically filtered to remove undesired objects as an integrated part of the eATE process. See www.erdas.com.

ERDAS Contest Winner Patrick Cowan "Breaks the Code"

Congratulations to Patrick Cowan of Brewer, Maine, for breaking the code in the ERDAS Mystery Message Contest. Several secret messages written in binary code were hidden in ERDAS print advertisements that ran in U.S. publications including Imaging Notes during the first quarter of 2010. Cowan stated, "I started by analyzing the rasters and vectors for patterns that may spell something or further lead me to the answer. That didn't work, so I then realized I was analyzing the image too deeply, and discovered it was binary code on the left and that three of the lines stood out more then the rest. So I converted the binary code, and there was the answer: "Earth to Business."

Mr. Cowan graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a B.S. in Forestry in 2004. He started working for the Sewall Co. in Old Town, Maine shortly before graduating. He was originally hired as the Digital Imaging Technician and currently is the Senior Digital Imaging Technician. Congratulations on winning the Nintendo Wii Gaming System, Patrick!

Honorable Mention goes to these two entries, who also answered the Mystery Message correctly:

  • Jackie Swanson of Willow Hollow in Roca, Nebraska; and
  • Dave Tyler of Newmont Mining Corporation in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

European Direct Access Facility Achieves Full Operational Capability

On April 9, in Munich, Germany, the European Direct Access Facility (DAF) opened for business. It is jointly operated by European Space Imaging (EUSI), a supplier of high-resolution satellite imagery to customers in Europe and North Africa, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for the WorldView Global Alliance – the commercial partnership between EUSI, Space Imaging Middle East, and DigitalGlobe, a content provider of high-resolution world imagery solutions.

WorldView Global Alliance customers can now benefit from priority tasking through a direct data uplink and downlink from WorldView-2, the world’s first commercial 8-band high-resolution satellite at 0.46 meter GSD panchromatic and 1.84 meter multi-spectral. (Distribution and use of imagery at better than 0.50 meter GSD pan and 2.0 meter GSD multispectral is subject to prior approval by the U.S. government.)

The DAF allows EUSI to take into account local real-time weather data to deliver efficient area collections, improved image quality with reduced cloud cover, and same-day production and delivery. Through its close partnership with DLR, EUSI continues to be the only European satellite data provider that operates its own high-resolution satellite ground station for direct satellite tasking and local data downlink.

Having successfully completed all site acceptance testing and calibration, the facility at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen is already collecting imagery from WorldView-1 and WorldView-2 for customers. See www.euspaceimaging.com, www.digitalglobe.com.

Vexcel Imaging Partners with PCI Geomatics

Vexcel recently partnered with PCI Geomatics, a provider of geo-imaging products and solutions, to produce an end-to-end image processing system developed specifically for customers of the UltraCam cameras and UltraMap photogrammetric software. Through PCI Geomatics' scalable GeomaticaX technology, the two companies will develop a complete workflow to take advantage of parallel processing and Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), to automatically orthorectify, pansharpen, and mosaic hundreds of UltraCam images per day. (more) Future plans include the ability to accelerate true ortho image production and the automatic generation of digital surface models from stereo UltraCam imagery. See www.pcigeomatics.com.


USGS Certifies UltraCamXp and UltraCamXp WA

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has notified Vexcel Imaging GmbH, Microsoft's photogrammetry division, that the UltraCamXp and UltraCamXp Wide Angle (WA) successfully completed the USGS Sensor Type Certification Process. USGS certifies that the two digital cameras are "capable of providing quality, consistent image data to support civil government programs at the performance level specified in the USGS sensor type certification report."

USGS certified the UltraCamD in December 2006 and the UltraCamX in July 2008. Vexcel released the UltraCamXp in 2008 with an enlarged footprint and enhanced storage capabilities compared to its predecessors. The company introduced the UltraCamXp Wide Angle in 2009; by featuring a wide-angle lens with a shorter focal length, it allows lower-flying airplanes to collect data at the same ground sample distance (GSD) as higher-flying planes carrying the UltraCamXp, while delivering the same image quality.

The UltraCamXp and the UltraCamXp WA have the same format with an enlarged footprint of 196 megapixels and a pixel size of 6 micrometers. Both cameras are fully compatible with the storage (DXp) and computing (CXp) systems of the UltraCamX and are fully supported by Vexcel's UltraMap 2.0 workflow software system.

See www.usgs.gov, www.vexcel.com.


Microsoft’s Vexcel Booth Brings Magic to ASPRS

The Vexcel booth was the place to be during the Exhibit Hall reception at ASPRS in San Diego. Magician Scott Tokar entertained the large crowds (behind the photographer) with the magic of the Vexcel cameras completely woven into the act! Note that inside his box are these words: "UltraCam Technology: Don’t take flight without it!"

Shown here are Scott with the Microsoft booth staff and audience volunteer Nancy Podger of GeoEye.

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