Following DoD’s lead, NGA to open new innovation center in Silicon Valley

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said it will open a new center in Silicon Valley to work more directly with startup companies, including several small satellite and imagery companies that call California home.

The NGA is in the early stages of working with commercial satellite operators for imagery data that would benefit the intelligence community.

“We plan to advance our profession by going to the geographic heart of American innovation: Silicon Valley,” Robert Cardillo, the director of the NGA, said in prepared remarks. “This summer, we’ll create a presence there, what we call NGA Outpost Valley. This NOV will leverage the organic capabilities and energy of the Valley’s open, vibrant, geospatial community. It’s a beachhead that will have the authority to reach out to all innovation centers.”

Two high-profile, small-satellite imagery companies —Planet Labs and Terra Bella, the Google-owned imagery company formerly known as SkyBox — are located in Silicon Valley. Cardillo has mentioned both companies in previous speeches and media briefings.

The Defense Department is expanding its efforts to work more closely with companies in Silicon Valley and more quickly adopt new technologies. This includes the Pentagon’s new outpost in Palo Alto, California.

Cardillo also said during a keynote address that NGA has doubled its budget with In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture capital firm funded by the Central Intelligence Agency,  to improve effectiveness in several areas, including commercial space. In the last several years, In-Q-Tel has backed several space-related investments and the nonprofit is interested in various space-related areas, including satellite constellations, launch vehicles, propulsion and analysis of remote sensing data.