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The Early Years
DigitalGlobe was founded in 1993 under the name WorldView Imaging Corporation, became EarthWatch Incorporated in 1995, before finally becoming DigitalGlobe in 2002.
In 1993, the United States Department of Commerce granted DigitalGlobe (then WorldView), the first license allowing a private enterprise to build and operate a satellite system to gather high-resolution digital imagery of the earth for commercial sale.
In January 1995, the company merged with the commercial remote sensing efforts of Ball Aerospace (operating under the name EarthWatch Incorporated). Ball brought significant communications and optics experience in building satellites and was responsible for the design and construction of the QuickBird sub-meter satellites. In addition to Ball Aerospace, DigitalGlobe contracted with Eastman Kodak Company and Fokker Space B.V. for the design, development and fabrication of QuickBird.
QuickBird is Launched
On October 18, 2001, DigitalGlobe (then EarthWatch) successfully launched what was then the world’s highest-resolution commercial satellite, QuickBird, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA (two prior launch attempts from Svobodny and Plesetsk, Russia had been unsuccessful). QuickBird is still operational today. In 2002, EarthWatch became DigitalGlobe, Inc. — a change in name and focus to more accurately reflect the goals of the company to create a virtual digital globe. Following the successful launch of QuickBird, DigitalGlobe began building an extensive business partner network serving both the government and commercial markets. Of note was the agreement to provide high-resolution imagery to Keyhole Corporation, subsequently acquired by Google in 2004, a key component in the creation and commercial success of Google Earth and beginning the proliferation of online mapping portals.
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