Press Release

GeoEye-1, World’s Highest Resolution Commercial Satellite, Will Use SGI Technology to Process Image Data

By SpaceRef Editor
November 15, 2006
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Billion of Bytes Sized Data Sets for National Security and Commercial Applications Demand 64-Bit, High-Performance Compute Only SGI Altix Systems Can Deliver

In anticipation of the spring 2007 launch of an extremely high-resolution Earth imagery satellite, GeoEye (Nasdaq: GEOY), the world’s largest commercial satellite remote-sensing company, purchased high-bandwidth, high-performance compute technology from SGI (Nasdaq: SGIC – News). At the Dulles, VA, ground station for the new GeoEye-1 satellite, four SGI® Altix® systems were delivered during the first calendar quarter that will drive core satellite image processing for the .41-meter panchromatic (sensitive to all visible colors) and 1.65-meter multi-spectral (sensing and recording radiation from invisible as well as visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum) imagery. GeoEye-1 is anticipated to collect more than 700,000 square kilometers — billions of bytes — of high-resolution imagery every day. A long-time SGI customer supplying imagery to the U.S. government, international governments and a growing number of commercial clients, GeoEye selected SGI systems because the record amounts of image data from the new satellite will require 4X the processing power.

“We have three satellites currently in orbit — OrbView-2 and 3, and IKONOS — but when GeoEye-1 becomes fully operational, it will be the world’s most powerful and most accurate high-resolution commercial imaging satellite. It’s going to collect more imagery on a given day than any commercial system currently on orbit,” said Don Koboldt, senior principal geodetic engineer, GeoEye. “I chose SGI Altix because it has 64-bit processing power, not 32, and because there’s a lot of computing power required for everything we do, including modeling the sensor and re-sampling all this data onto a geographic system. Not to mention the actual volumes of pixel data that has to be processed. It’s both an I/O-bound problem and a compute problem, and SGI is taking the lead in designing systems for this need.”

The GeoEye-1 satellite’s ability to go down to a .41-meter resolution means, in simple terms, the high-resolution imagery taken from orbit and processed by the SGI® Altix® 350 systems will be capable of discerning objects on the ground 16 inches in size or larger. At that resolution, one would be able to identify home plate on a baseball diamond or count the manholes on a city street. In general, GeoEye’s products are utilized in a wide variety of applications including defense and intelligence for large area mapping, state and local governments for urban planning and mapping, insurance and risk management, environmental monitoring and disaster relief. Such imagery is also ideal for on-line mapping search engines.

GeoEye recently won a $19.6 million contract with the U.S. Government to supply imagery and value-added products and services to several Federal agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Park Service, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). GeoEye uses a variety of off-the-shelf software and writes many in-house propriety codes at its St. Louis office, where much of the high end value- added work for the U.S. Government is produced. All the codes are written to be multi-platform, which makes the open system, Linux® environment of the SGI Altix systems perfectly compatible with the requirements set by the company.

With the scheduled launch of GeoEye-1 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the company expects even greater sales from government, commercial and local government interests. GeoEye is especially seeking to expand their offerings into other markets that need high-resolution map- accurate imagery. “Today imagery is in ‘soft’ copy, that is, digital format, and you can accurately position locations on any of the image sets,” said Koboldt, a former 10-year veteran of NGA who helped design components of the GeoEye-1 ground system. “In other words we’ll know exactly where everything is-to within a few meters of that object’s true location on the surface of the globe. If you want to know where something is in terms of position, you could do it by using our image products and measuring on the screen. In addition to accuracy improvement, images are getting bigger, the amount of data is getting larger, and the Altix will let us step up a little more in terms of image sizes and file system sizes as well.”

GeoEye purchased four SGI Altix 350 systems with 16 Intel® Itanium® 2 processors on each system. The SGI Altix systems run Novell® SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server, version 9, ensuring the Altix deployment dovetails with existing GeoEye applications. The four SGI Altix systems will be attached to a storage area network that will also include a previously purchased SGI® Altix® 3700 server, which will be used for image reconstruction activities when GeoEye-1 is launched.

“The power of 64-bit SGI Altix systems is ideal for the massive data processing needs of high-resolution Earth imagery satellite data,” said Gene Gray, government and defense market segment manager, SGI. “Commercial satellite data companies such as the world-leading GeoEye, government labs, as well as NASA, NOAA, private weather forecasting companies, and leading universities involved in weather research and catastrophe relief, all rely on the processing power of SGI technology to deliver the data sets necessary to protect and serve America and the world.”

About GeoEye

Headquartered in Dulles, Va., GeoEye is the world’s largest commercial satellite imagery company. GeoEye was formed as a result of ORBIMAGE’s acquisition of Space Imaging in January 2006. The company is the premier provider of geospatial data, information and value-added products for the national security community, strategic partners, resellers and commercial customers. The company maintains a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) and has achieved corporate-wide ISO accreditation. For more information, visit

SGI – Innovation for Results(TM)

SGI delivers a complete range of high-performance server and storage solutions along with industry-leading professional services and support that enable its customers to overcome the challenges of complex data-intensive workflows and accelerate breakthrough discoveries, innovation and information transformation. SGI helps customers solve their computing challenges whether it’s enhancing the quality of life through drug research, designing and manufacturing safer and more efficient cars and airplanes, studying global climate, providing technologies for homeland security and defense, or helping enterprises manage large data. With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at

NOTE: SGI, Altix, NUMAflex, the SGI cube and the SGI logo are registered trademarks, and NUMAlink is a trademark of SGI in the United States and/or other countries worldwide. Novell is a registered trademark and SUSE is a trademark of Novell, Inc. in the United States and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries. Intel, Itanium, and Xeon are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.


Marla Robinson



SpaceRef staff editor.