The pioneering commercial imaging satellite QuickBird-2 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 20, 2015, after a successful 13 years of service and more than 70,000 trips around the planet. The satellite was launched in October 2001 and was the first successful high-resolution commercial imaging satellite from North American companies DigitalGlobe (then EarthWatch) and GeoEye (then Space Imaging).
Prior to this successful launch, the first QuickBird satellite from EarthWatch was launched in 2000, but it failed to reach its planned orbit. Space Imaging launched EarlyBird-1 in 1997, but it lost communications because of a power system failure.
The QuickBird-2 satellite collected panchromatic imagery at 61-centimeter resolution and multispectral imagery at 2.44- to 1.63-meter resolution. The satellite’s imagery resolution decreased toward the end of its mission because its orbit was raised to extend its life by decreasing the fuel needed to combat Earth’s gravitational pull. The satellite’s orbit began to decay in January 2014, taking 11 months to enter orbit until Jan. 27, 2015, above the South Atlantic Ocean near southern Brazil.
DigitalGlobe marked the moment by acknowledging the satellite’s contribution to the company’s imagery catalog and noting that QuickBird imagery can still be purchased from DigitalGlobe and its partners.