DigitalGlobe: New commercial players not threatening our government business

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SN Military.Space Sandra Erwin

Geospatial imagery and services provider DigitalGlobe last week got a major vote of confidence from its primary customer, the U.S. intelligence community. The company secured a $900 million contract extension from the National Reconnaissance Office to provide commercial imagery until August 2023.

Dan Jablonsky, president of DigitalGlobe, told SpaceNewsthat the contract extension is proof that the government values “continuity” despite the rapid growth of new commercial players such as Planet. NRO added three option years collectively worth approximately $900 million to the EnhancedView follow-on contract. The NRO in September assumed responsibility of the contract that used to be managed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Along with the imagery-buying extension, the NRO signed a separate contract for an undisclosed amount to fund a DigitalGlobe cloud computing infrastructure upgrade to ease the sharing of data between the company and the government.

Jablonsky said the industry is being disrupted by innovators, “but what we’re seeing with this contract is that even as disruption happens, high quality data and information is essential to make decisions on rapid timelines and in the environment you need to make to make them,” he said. “It shows the importance of continuity.”

The original EnhancedView deal was signed in 2010. With three years tacked on, the estimated revenue for DigitalGlobe over the life of the contract would reach about $1.5 billion, said Jablonsky.

The company will support the NRO with three satellites — WorldView-1, 2 and 3 “as long they continue to perform,” he said. Should there be any interruptions or degradation in their performance, DigitalGlobe can tap into WorldView-4, and is currently building a $600 million WorldView Legion constellation. “It will be more than two satellites, but we haven’t said how many,” Jablonsky said. The first Legion satellite is scheduled to launch in 2021.

The NRO also has extended for another year DigitalGlobe’s contract to provide machine learning services. These are provided through the NGA’s Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery (Global EGD) program. Users can scan through vast quantities of imagery and other data with machine learning to detect change. The program was renewed for the seventh year in September for $44 million.

A spokesman said DigitalGlobe is “expanding its footprint within the U.S. government in a number of ways. We’re currently building a cloud-based analytics hub for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NASA recently contracted with us for commercial Earth observation data.”

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