Intelligence agencies announce new cooperation on commercial imagery
WASHINGTON – Two U.S. intelligence agencies – the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office – announced July 15 a new collaboration to help their organizations buy and analyze commercial satellite imagery.
In recent years, NGA has undertaken several ventures, from formal strategies to contracting experiments, to take advantage of a burgeoning commercial imagery market, fueled in part by Silicon Valley startups. This latest effort, known as the Commercial GEOINT Activity, is slated to kick off no later than Sept. 30 and aims to help both agencies better use commercial imagery.
The new partnership will recommend investments to both agencies and help synchronize acquisition from companies that both collect and analyze images. The NRO, which builds and operates the country’s spy satellites, is responsible for collecting images from government satellites. The NGA is responsible for processing those images into actionable intelligence.
“We’re fortunate to witness a daily proliferation of new commercial geospatial technologies and data sources,” Robert Cardillo, NGA’s director, said during a speech in May at the GEOINT 2016 conference in Orlando. “Our commercial space partners will provide meaningful, higher revisit capabilities this year and we look forward to turning their exciting potential into our mission reality.”
In a July 15 press release, Cardillo said he hoped the new office would “improve my ability to satisfy GEOINT needs using all available solutions.”
Betty Sapp, the NRO’s director, said the new partnership will provide for “a coordinated voice and integrated approach to our industry partners.”
NGA’s current EnhancedView service contract is with longtime supplier DigitalGlobe of Westminster, Colorado. While newcomers, such as Planet, BlackSky Global and Terra Bella, are not expected to offer quite the same imagery quality as DigitalGlobe in terms of resolution and geospatial accuracy, they can provide more-frequent revisit times via larger constellations, along with novel capabilities such as full-motion video.
In an email to SpaceNews, Jeffrey Tarr, DigitalGlobe’s chief executive, said “we’ve been working closely with both the NGA and NRO for many years and believe the opportunity for increased coordination is good for DigitalGlobe, the United States, and its allies.”