High-resolution Google satellite launched

Details area the size of a shrubbery

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A Google-branded satellite that can record sharp images of tiny areas of Earth was launched on Saturday in the US.

The Delta 2 rocket successfully carried a GeoEye-1 satellite towards its polar orbit from which it will circle the earth a dozen times a day from 681km in the sky.

The Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, witnessed it being shot into space. The satellite will supply information for the company's mapping services as well as environmental, agricultural, and more ominously, defence purposes.

The satellite, which cost half a billion dollars to build and launch, was fired into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Pin-sharp detail

According to the Associated Press, the satellite can detail areas in black or white as small as 'a baseball diamond's home plate' up to an area 'the size of Texas' in a 24-hour period, or an area the size of New Mexico in colour.

For non-American readers, this means that the satellite can identify a small black-and-white shrubbery within an area six times the size of Wales. Or record all of East Anglia in detailed colour.

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