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Vancouver start-up hopes to tackle Google Earth

The International Space Station, seen here in a May 23, 2011 file photo released by NASA.

Paolo Nespoli/AP

A Vancouver company that says it plans to challenge to Google Earth by installing a high-definition video camera on the Russian side of the International Space Station has gone public.

Privately held Earth Video Camera Inc. has rolled itself into public oil and gas company Longford Energy Inc. in a reverse takeover.

The new corporation, UrtheCast Corp., will start trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol UR Thursday morning.

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UrtheCast has plans to launch two cameras into space on the back of a Russian Soyuz rocket in November.

The devices, one a medium-resolution still camera and the other a high-definition video camera, will be installed in the ISS, which orbits 350 kilometres above the Earth.

It's the first time that a high-definition video camera has been installed in space, and Scott Larson, president and CEO of UrtheCast, is hoping that will give his largely unknown company an edge over heavyweight Google Inc.

"You can enter your address and see a picture taken two weeks, six weeks, 15 weeks, 30 weeks and scroll back and forth in time to see how things have changed over time," Mr. Larson said.

Mr. Larson is confident that, thanks to his company's "excellent relationship" with the Russian Space Agency UrtheCast will be able to sell images of the Earth at a lower cost than its competitors.

He's also planning on selling advertising and sponsorships on UrtheCast's website.

"I tend to think that everyone in the world is going to want to come to the website at least once," said Mr. Larson.

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Earth Video Camera has raised $17.5-million from outside investors though a private placement. UrtheCast is starting out with a market capitalization of about $110-million, said Mr. Larson.

The company has also attracted some big names to its board of directors, including William (Mac) Evans, the former head of the Canadian Space Agency who also helped negotiate Canada's role in the International Space Station.

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