The Landsat 8 satellite, to be launched in early 2013, is expected to be fully operational by May or June of that year. Once it begins capturing images and beaming them back, Geoscience Australia (GA) will publish them online for free, in as close to real time as practical, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence.

The aim of this initiative is to help all manner of industries to understand land use over time. As UK newspaper the Register reports, Jeff Kingwell, Section Leader of GA’s National Earth Observation Group, anticipates high demand for these images:

We want to make as much data freely available as possible. … The experience of the US Geological Survey when they moved to free to air service available online was that usage went up by a factor of 1000.