Continuing a very successful year for United Launch Alliance, an Atlas V rocket thundered into space this morning on a mission to successfully deploy the WorldView-3 satellite for commercial space imaging provider DigitalGlobe. Blasting off on time at 11:30 a.m PDT from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg AFB in California, WorldView-3 was placed into polar orbit nineteen and a half minutes later where it will provide global high-resolution Earth imagery for civil and government customers.

WorldView-3 was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter-diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the Russian-built RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine.

“This launch marks ULA’s tenth successful launch of fifteen planned this year,” said Sponnick. “The ULA team remains focused on mission success and on-time deliveries for our customer’s most valuable payloads.”

“The 30th Space Wing is proud of supporting the successful launch of a high-resolution commercial earth imaging satellite with the United Launch Alliance team,” said Col. Marc Del Rosario, 30th Operations Group commander. “Today’s launch is a testament to the professionalism and commitment to mission assurance, public safety, and mission success on the Western Range.”

WorldView-3 is built upon the Ball Commercial Platform (BCP) 5000 spacecraft bus which accommodates next-generation optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) remote sensing payloads, and is designed to be a flexible, stable, and highly accurate Earth remote sensing platform.

“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. “We’d like to thank our customers, partners, team members and investors for their support in bringing to the world the new capabilities made possible with this success.”

WorldView-3 will collect super-spectral imagery at 0.31 meter resolution — delivering 5 times the clarity of the company’s nearest competitor. In addition WorldView-3 will offer the most spectral diversity available commercially and will be the first to offer multiple shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands that allow for accurate imaging through haze, fog, dust, smoke and other air-born particulates. The satellite is also the only satellite to offer CAVIS, a cloud, aerosol, water vapor, ice and snow atmospheric correction instrument, which monitors the atmosphere and corrects data for an unprecedented level of consistency.

“Congratulations to our commercial mission partners Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and Digital Globe for today’s spectacular launch of the Atlas V carrying the WorldView-3 satellite,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “The team’s dedication to mission success, one launch at a time, brought us to today’s successful launch, delivering WorldView-3 to provide the next generation in earth imaging capabilities for DigitalGlobe.

WorldView-3 will be the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite sensor operating at an expected altitude of 617 km. WorldView-3 provides 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24 m multispectral resolution, 3.7 m short wave infrared resolution and 30 m CAVIS resolution. WorldView-3 has an average revisit time of

“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 and atmospheric monitoring instrument called CAVIS were built by Ball Aerospace (NYSE: BLL). Exelis (NYSE: XLS) built the integrated, super-spectral payload consisting of a telescope, sensor and shortwave infrared system, making WorldView-3 the first commercial satellite to carry such capabilities. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle provided by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS) delivered the satellite in orbit.

DigitalGlobe’s newest satellite extends WorldView-2 and WorldView-1 technology by carrying forward the satellites’ advanced Control Moment Gyroscopes (CMGs). CMGs reorient a satellite over a desired collection area in 4-5 seconds, compared to 30-45 seconds needed for traditional reaction wheels.


WorldView-3l also features the first atmospheric sounder DigitalGlobe will fly in space. The Ball-built Cloud, Aerosol, Water Vapor, Ice, Snow (CAVIS) atmospheric instrument will enable WorldView-3 to collect scientific data based on ground reflection by correcting images for atmospheric interference.

Ball was able to provide the CAVIS instrument at substantial cost savings by using the electronics design, focal plane detectors and spectral filter manufacturing methods developed for its Operational Land Imager (OLI) instrument on NASA’s Landsat 8 mission. The Ball team was also able to reuse OLI’s ground support equipment for the CAVIS instrument.

WorldView-3’s direct tasking capability allows select DigitalGlobe customers around the world to load imaging profiles directly up to the spacecraft and execute delivery of the data directly down to their own ground stations.


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