The White House is reviewing a proposal to lift the restriction preventing U.S. satellite imagery providers from releasing pictures with a resolution of less than 50 cm (19.7 in.). Adoption of the proposal to allow release of images with 25-cm resolution could kick off an explosion of global competition and products for satellite imagery providers hungry to expand substantially beyond the government market.

DigitalGlobe, the only remaining U.S. high-resolution satellite imagery provider, included the proposal in a licensing request filed last May. The first 50-cm license was provided in 2000. The company's WorldView-3 satellite, capable of products with 31-cm resolution, is launching in August, and DigitalGlobe is worried its market share is being siphoned off by rival Airbus Defense and Space (formerly EADS Astrium) and others.

The U.S. intelligence community has “reached a consensus [that] bodes well for industry” supporting DigitalGlobe's licensing request, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at last week's 10th Annual Geoint conference here. National Reconnaissance Office Director Betty Sapp says she would rather focus her agency, which builds and operates U.S. spy satellites, on the most difficult, high-end challenges. “We want to make sure we are not doing anything they can do,” she says.

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