July 17, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

The United States will depend on commercial satellites to obtain images of spacecraft in orbit

WASHINGTON – The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is turning to the commercial satellite imaging industry for help monitoring objects in Earth's orbit. On June 12, the agency published a Information request seeking input from companies in the emerging non-terrestrial imaging (NEI) market.

NEI refers to images of spacecraft, satellites and space debris in orbit. It is a relatively new market for commercial satellite operators, facilitated by regulatory reforms in 2022 That lifted long-standing restrictions on U.S. companies obtaining images and collecting detailed data on satellites in space.

NGA said it plans to conduct market research and engage in dialogue with industry about providing NEI with commercial data and analytics to meet the intelligence requirements of the U.S. government and its allies on objects in space. According to the request, the agency wants to better understand data analysis capabilities and unclassified non-terrestrial imagery capabilities, including imagery from uncooperative platforms.

Space Domain Awareness Demand

In the face of increasing orbital congestion and the risks posed by potential adversaries, improving space situational awareness has become a national security imperative. US officials have said. With the rise of space powers like China and Russia's aggressive development of anti-satellite weapons, it has been recognized that the United States needs to turn to commercial remote sensing companies to obtain data on potentially hostile spacecraft.

NGA said leveraging NEI's commercial capabilities represents an opportunity to augment existing government systems. The agency is the nation's primary source of geospatial intelligence for the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community.

Responses to the RFI are due July 12. Only US-owned companies are eligible for this program.

NGA said the market research will inform upcoming non-terrestrial imaging acquisition over five years.

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 NDIA's National Defense Editor…

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