Scolese said the NRO "will be able to do more with smaller satellites.”
This was the NRO’s 54th launch since 1996 and its first launch on a Minotaur 4.
A report from Quilty Analytics projects Maxar will retain the bulk of future NRO imagery contracts and emerging competitors Planet and BlackSky will gradually gain market share.
By the end of the year, the National Reconnaissance Office plans to issue “multiple operational commercial imagery contracts to support defense, security and many other U.S. government missions,” said Pete Muend, director of NRO’s Commercial Systems Program Office.
Small satellites and responsive launch are areas of particular interest to the NRO.
Rocket Lab has won contracts from the National Reconnaissance Office for a pair of Electron launches intended to demonstrate the company’s responsive launch capabilities.
LinQuest provides space technology and services to the U.S. military, NASA and intelligence agencies.
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Named “Birds of a Feather,” the mission is scheduled to lift off Jan. 31 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.
Pete Muend said the NRO wants to understand the capabilities of a variety of commercial vendors.
Scolese said China is a top concern: “They are putting spacecraft up very quickly and we have to stay ahead."
The National Reconnaissance Office awarded a commercial imagery subscription contract to Planet Labs Federal, a subsidiary of Earth observation company Planet.
HySpecIQ’s contract follows three commercial imagery study awards announced by the NRO in June to BlackSky Global, Maxar Technologies and Planet.