OMAHA, Neb. Several high-priority and high-priced satellites crucial to U.S. national security are slated to launch over the next 15 to 18 months, according to Bruce Carlson, director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).


During a keynote address here at the Strategic Space Symposium, Carlson did not provide details of the upcoming missions. Most of the NRO’s satellite programs are classified.


Carlson noted the launches to make the point that the NRO continues to perform its mission despite having had its struggles in recent years.


But Carlson also said the NRO has suffered a steep decline in its research and development budget in recent years. To counter the effect of that decline, the NRO is working more closely with other U.S. research and development agencies, including the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, he said.


Carlson also shed some light on the rewrite of the NRO’s charter now underway. The agency’s original charter was written in 1964. The goals of the exercise include giving the NRO more decision authority for its programs, more control of its employees, who come from the Air Force and CIA, and a say in establishing the requirements for intelligence-gathering satellites.


The NRO also wants the budgetary flexibility to shift funds between programs as necessary, Carlson said.


Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...