KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The head of the National Reconnaissance Office’s commercial space office Pete Muend announced plans to create a flexible contracting pipeline to onboard the latest innovations from private remote sensing companies.

Speaking at the GEOINT Symposium, Muend said commercial imagery is needed to complement national systems and meet the growing demands from the military and intelligence agencies for Earth observation data.

His office plans to roll out a new contracting vehicle with an “open-ended rolling environment” that is not restricted to any single type of imagery like electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar.

“We will solicit input and award contracts across all the phenomenologies,” Muend said, adding that the goal is to seamlessly integrate multiple commercial capabilities into the government’s larger architecture.

This would mark a shift from the NRO’s traditional acquisition approach of focusing on specific imagery phenomenologies like electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar, radio-frequency and hyperspectral data.

Radar commercial layer?

Muend said the NRO is also finalizing plans for a large procurement exclusively for commercial synthetic aperture radar imagery. Dubbed the “radar commercial layer,” it would be similar to the electro-optical commercial layer contract awarded in 2022 to Maxar, Planet, and BlackSky — but likely at a smaller scale.

“It’s really a whole executive branch discussion,” Muend said of the radar contracts. “Decisions have not been made yet but they’re well underway.”

Brett Scott, who leads the NRO’s Geospatial Intelligence Information Systems Acquisition Directorate, said there is a push to capitalize on the commercial space industry’s cutting-edge technologies, and to “incentivize industry properly and ensure companies get to reap the rewards of their efforts.”

“They have a profit to make,” Scott told the GEOINT crowd. “We’re trying to figure out the best, most effective and efficient way to acquire these systems moving forward.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...