Fresh off finalizing its merger with commercial satellite imagery competitor GeoEye, DigitalGlobe [DGI] said yesterday it intends to store the next-generation GeoEye-2 imagery satellite indefinitely after completing construction this year.

DigitalGlobe is storing GeoEye-2 so it can use it in the future to meet customer demand or as a replacement for other on-orbit satellites, according to a company statement. Before the merger, GeoEye had planned for GeoEye-2 to be launched, and operational, in 2013. A DigitalGlobe spokesman yesterday declined to comment beyond the press release.

DigitalGlobe also said yesterday it is on track to complete its WorldView-3 satellite and have it ready for mid-2014 launch. DigitalGlobe said WorldView-3 will offer the most spectral diversity available commercially and be the first to offer multiple Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) bands that will allow accurate imaging through haze, fog, smoke and other airborne particles. Having WorldView-3 ready for launch by mid-2014 will meet the requirements of the company’s EnhancedView contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the company’s largest customer. EnhancedView is a program to provide NGA with satellite imagery (Defense Daily, June 26).

“After careful consideration and discussions with our largest customer and others, we have determined that launching WorldView-3 and preserving GeoEye-2 as a ground spare will best meet the collective needs of customers and shareowners alike,” DigitalGlobe President and CEO Jeffrey Tarr said yesterday in a statement. “This plan reduces our risk profile and capital footprint while giving our customers access to the most advanced earth observation capabilities available commercially.”

DigitalGlobe intends to provide full-year 2013 financial guidance and an updated capital expenditure forecast when it announces fourth quarter 2012 and full year 2012 earnings on Feb. 26.

GeoEye-2’s 34 cm resolution is considered to be the world’s highest for commercial imagery. It is being designed and built by Lockheed Martin [LMT] and will also feature a new geospatial systems camera designed by ITT Exelis [XLS].

DigitalGlobe said WorldView-3 is expected to be the first super-spectral commercial satellite. Operating at an expected altitude of 617 km, WorldView-3 will provide 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24 meter multi-spectral resolution in eight spectral bands and 3.7 meter SWIR resolution in an additional eight spectral bands. DigitalGlobe said WorldView-3 will be capable of collecting up to 680,000 square km of imagery per day.

The merger agreement between DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, finalized Jan. 31, essentially leaves one main U.S.-based company in the commercial satellite imagery space that uses its own satellites to provide services to the U.S. government, in particular the Defense Department. International competitors include the Astrium unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (Defense Daily, May 7 and May 8).

DigitalGlobe in July agreed to acquire GeoEye, its primary United States-based competitor in the satellite earth imagery and geospatial analysis market, in a stock and cash deal valued at $900 million (Defense Daily, July 24).

DigitalGlobe provides earth imagery and geospatial analysis.