In 1993, the United States Department of Commerce granted DigitalGlobe's predecessor, WorldView Imaging Corporation (WorldView), the first license allowing a private enterprise to build and operate a satellite system to gather high spatial resolution digital imagery of the earth for commercial sale. WorldView designed its first spacecraft, EarlyBird 1, to collect 3-meter resolution panchromatic and 15-meter multispectral imagery.
In January 1995, EarthWatch Incorporated (EarthWatch) was formed by the merger of the commercial remote sensing efforts of Ball Aerospace and WorldView. Ball brought significant communications and optics experience in building satellites. Examples include the RadarSat spacecraft for Canada and the CoStar instrument for NASA that successfully corrected the Hubble Space Telescope. Ball is responsible for the design and construction of EarthWatch's QuickBird sub-meter satellites.
During 1996 and 1997, EarthWatch developed our order processing and manufacturing systems, ground infrastructure, and constructed the EarlyBird satellite. EarlyBird 1 was launched successfully on December 24, 1997, on a Start-1 rocket from Svobodny, Russia. However, the satellite failed on orbit four days later due to a problem with the onboard power system. Despite extensive efforts, EarthWatch was unable to regain communications with the satellite. In April 1998, EarthWatch declared the satellite a loss and used the insurance proceeds to help fund continuing construction of the QuickBird satellites. EarthWatch decided not to proceed with the launch of a second EarlyBird, as the market window for 3-meter resolution data had closed.
In November of 2000, EarthWatch launched the QuickBird 1 satellite from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia. QuickBird 1 failed to reach orbit.
In September of 2001 EarthWatch became DigitalGlobe -- a change in name and focus to better reflect the goals of the company. DigitalGlobe products provide the solutions to customer's project needs. DigitalGlobe intends to assemble a multi-source digital archive of spatial data that provides customers access to up-to-date earth information.
DigitalGlobe successfully launched the QuickBird 2 (QuickBird) satellite on October 18 of 2001. In addition to Ball Aerospace, DigitalGlobe contracted with Eastman Kodak Company and Fokker Space B.V. for the design, development, and fabrication of the QuickBird.