This image acquired by a DigitalGlobe satellite shows the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. The new satellite would provide a more gruesome level of detail

Cutting-edge satellite to scan Earth with extra detail

A new commercial satellite capable to see details smaller than 30cm has been launched, promising to bring commercial Earth observation to a new level.

The WorldView-3 satellite, the sixth and most advanced addition to the fleet operated by US-based DigitalGlobe, can see individual players on a football field, distinguish kinds of trees in a forest and identify cars by their windshields.

The satellite was lifted to space aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday.

"The successful launch of WorldView-3 extends DigitalGlobe's commanding technological lead and will enable us to help our customers see through smoke, peer beneath the ocean's surface and determine the mineral and moisture content of the earth below - all with unprecedented clarity," said Jeffrey R Tarr, Chief Executive Officer of DigitalGlobe.

"The unmatched abilities that WorldView-3 brings to our constellation will enable us to provide our customers with information and insight never before possible and advance our efforts to create a living digital inventory of the earth," said Tarr.

The satellite will orbit the Earth at the altitude of 600km, focusing its sharp-eyed instruments on the planet’s surface, revealing almost intrusive details.

"With the capabilities of this satellite we could see home plate in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. We can see the players in the field ... We could even count empty seats," DigitalGlobe Vice President Neil Anderson said in an interview during a live launch webcast.

"We can tell you what kind of trees are in the forest ... We can tell you what crops are growing, whether they are growing well, whether they're diseased, what the moisture content is in the soil. We can determine manmade objects. We can determine types of roads. We can actually see mineral content on the ground," Anderson said.

The satellite carries a CAVIS (cloud, aerosol, water vapour, ice and snow atmospheric correction) instrument for monitoring of the Earth’s atmosphere and has become the first satellite to offer multiple shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands that allow for accurate imaging through haze, fog, dust, smoke and other air-born particulates.

DigitalGlobe said the $500m satellite, built by Ball Corp, offers five time the clarity of its nearest commercial competitor.

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