Magazine article Reason

Pix in Space

Magazine article Reason

Pix in Space

Article excerpt

The government makes it easier to sell satellite photos.

IN JUNE 1991, ITEK OPTICAL SYSTEMS Of Lexington, Massachusetts, applied to the Department of State for a license to launch a satellite so the company could sell photographs of the earth's surface. Itek President James Frey suggests that, among other uses, high-resolution satellite terrain maps could have saved lives and property after last year's Midwest floods and this year's Northridge earthquake. Itek's license application still hasn't been approved. But a March 10 decision by the Clinton administration to loosen restrictions on the sale of satellite images could get Itek, and other fledgling satellite companies, off the ground.

Communications is by far the best known and largest commercial use of satellites, but satellite images, or remote sensing, "is rapidly becoming the second genuine space-based business," reports Aviation Week & Space Technology. For now, the market for satellite photos seems small--perhaps no more than $400 million in annual worldwide sales--but the RAND Corporation predicts it may reach $15 billion a year by the end of the decade. France, Russia, and other nations with space programs already sell satellite photos to any willing buyer.

The U.S. government, however, classified satellites and the pictures they take as munitions, subject to the same type of export restrictions placed on Stealth fighters and Patriot missiles. A 1992 law requires the Commerce Department to rule within 120 days on whether a company can get a license to sell satellite images. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.