SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Harris Corp. won a five-year contract to improve geospatial-intelligence searching — a deal potentially worth up to $500 million.

The contract award from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency seeks to “enable NGA analysts and customers to search and retrieve data from intelligence systems faster and more efficiently than ever before,” the company said in a press release.

The NGA is a Defense Department agency focused on improving geospatial intelligence and analysis for warfighters and military decision makers. The agency awarded the contract in January, but Harris did not officially announce it until June 6 at the 2017 GEOINT Symposium here.

The contract itself is what’s known as an “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity,” or IDIQ, contract — a flexible agreement that allows NGA to pay Harris for as much or as little help with this effort as the agency decides it needs.

Under the contract, Harris will help the NGA and other intelligence agencies manage, search, and use data acquired through various GEOINT sources including imaging satellites.

“It’s one thing to have produced data and stick it in a database, but what do you do with it after that?” said Mike Gourley, Harris’ director of government geospatial programs. “How does the user get it? How do the analysts know it even exists?”

NGA has been working with the private sector to develop new and innovative ways to search through mountains of incoming GEOINT data.

Speaking at the annual symposium here, NGA Director Robert Cardillo said that in five years, there may be a million times more geospatial data available as there is now.

“In a world that has…a gale of data tidal wave on its horizon, we’ll either sink, or we’ll swim, or we’ll ride this rising tide, and I say we ride,” he said.

Cardillo said the NGA must look to innovative ways to process and analyze data, because doing it by hand would require him to hire an estimated 8 billion additional analysts. A single sensor, he continued, can sometimes in one day collect the data-equivalent of three seasons worth of professional football games.

The new IDIQ contract isn’t Harris’ only government geospatial effort. Under a five-year NGA contract awarded in 2014 — with a potential value of $770 million — Harris creates high-quality data and products for the U.S. intelligence community and military. For example, Harris may obtain information from commercial sources on the location of buildings in a particular area and their size.

“If it’s a critical piece of information NGA can verify it with imagery,” Gourley said.

Phillip Swarts is the military space reporter for SpaceNews. He previously covered space and advanced technology for Air Force Times, the Justice Department for The Washington Times, and investigative journalism for the Washington Guardian;...

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...