On Monday, Colorado-based satellite firm DigitalGlobe announced it’s merging with Virginia-based competitor GeoEye in a stock and cash deal worth $900 million. The merger works out in DigitalGlobe’s favor, which keeps its name intact and whose shareholders will control 64 percent of the new company. DigitalGlobe will also take over GeoEye operations. Best known for providing imagery for applications like Google Earth, the companies combined provide more than three-quarters of the U.S. government’s satellite images.
DigitalGlobe is now the main player in the satellite industry. The company is currently building two new satellites: the World View-3 and is finishing GeoEye’s latest orbital, the GeoEye-2. The company plans to launch one sometime in 2013 or 2014. The GeoEye-2, though not as zoomable as the governments’ top secret spy satellites, is expected to be able to photograph the ground at higher resolutions than the best current commercial satellites. Whichever satellite doesn’t launch is planned to be kept grounded as a spare.
DigitalGlobe expects the merger will also allow net savings of up to $1.5 billion, saving taxpayers money while allowing the company to diversify. But with most of the U.S.’s geospatial intelligence now absorbed by one company, it’s worth wondering what that will do to satellite costs over the long term. It’s not difficult to factor that monopolies distort the marketplace, and exclude competitors which work to keep down prices.
It also means more and more space imagery will be the preserve of one company. Like it or not, that means DigitalGlobe will control an increasing amount of what we can — or can’t — see from space.