Cover: Commercial Observation Satellites

Commercial Observation Satellites

At the Leading Edge of Global Transparency

Published 2001

Edited by John C. Baker, Kevin M. O'Connell, Ray Williamson

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Wide access to satellite imagery and related products has expanded rapidly since the end of the Cold War. Leading the way into this new era of global transparency is a new generation of high-resolution commercial and civilian imaging satellites that will offer almost anyone timely overhead images of locations that are geographically remote, politically inaccessible, or simply difficult to comprehend without an overhead perspective. But whether these systems are commercially viable remains to be seen in the long run. The probable effects on world affairs are highly uncertain and depend deeply on other economic, technological, and political trends. Still, on balance, greater transparency is likely to provide significant benefits. And the policy community will need to improve its ability to deal with new technologies. But regardless of how one views the political and economic effects, the phenomenon of global transparency is still developing, both from the standpoint of data from high-resolution earth-observation satellites and from the other information technologies that support these data and make them particularly useful in monitoring and better understanding global developments.

"Not a day seems to go by without reference in the general press to the role presently played by high resolution imaging satellites in the war against terrorism. This excellent compilation is therefore both topical and timely, placing the U.S. IKONOS and other current 'dual use' military/ civil satellites in an historical and political context, in an era where new communications technology can now provide near 'on-demand' access to their metre level ground resolution imagery… The authors propose that the applicability of these imagery products to an increasing range of real-world issues provides both an opportunity for economic and political development but also a threat to policy makers; global transparency is fast becoming a fact of life! A highly recommended overview."

- The Aerospace Professional

"This is not only a book about space technology. It tackles the question of how space technologies are part, or even become drivers of, strategic global development. In the case of this book it is the influence of Earth observation by satellite on the global information society and its trend towards steadily increasing transparency… To give an immediate assessment of [the editors'] effort, it can be stated that they have succeeded in not only providing a most fascinating and illustrative description of the capabilities of this space application, but they also arrive at an exemplary analysis of the various policy issues… It is a particular virtue of this book that it draws a truly realistic picture of the subject and provides convincing answers to every question it poses."

- Space Policy

"An international group of experts provides 26 chapters on all aspects of the topic, including emerging policy issues, US and non-US satellite remote sensing programs, and remote sensing applications to international problems, including Dayton Peace talks, the Ecuador-Peru peace process, remote monitoring in the South China Sea, the role of commercial satellite imagery in locating south Asian nuclear test sites, and supporting humanitarian relief operations. Two of the editors are affiliated with the RAND Corporation, the third teaches at the George Washington University Space Policy Institute."

- Book News, Inc.

"While the [U.S. military space policy] review is underway, the RAND Corporation thank tank has released a new study of commercial remote sensing that will likely be a definitive guide for policymakers during the current round of studies."

- Spacelift Washington

"This publication is a useful addition to the remote sensing literature. It contains policy issues that many users of the data have not considered nor been well informed of. The book is well presented, well organized and easy to use. It could conceivably be a textbook on a policy in remote sensing course. Most users will use it selectively as a reference book or for general knowledge. In addition to the policy issues, there is a considerable amount of other information."

- Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing

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