NRO Now Seeking Commercial Space Radar Imagery
The National Reconnaissance Office recently published its first solicitation for commercial space radar imagery as part of a larger effort to tap private-sector sources of space data. NRO Director Christopher Scolese said the request for bids represents a more agile approach to the acquisition of emerging remote sensing phenomenologies, such as commercial radar, hyperspectral imagery and radiofrequency mapping, Space News reported.
What makes the NRO’s solicitation for commercial synthetic aperture radar imagery particularly significant is that it is not only open to American-owned, domestically based companies but to foreign-owned companies based locally. A recent survey found that the United States is lagging behind other countries in commercial remote sensing capabilities, including SAR.
In the past, U.S. satellite imaging capabilities have been the best in the world, but recently, they have not only lost ground but are officially behind those of other nations, as revealed by a recent internal analysis by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
SpaceNews reported, however, that foreign-owned companies are still not eligible for the Electro-Optical Commercial Layer procurement.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Banik, deputy director of the NRO Commercial Systems Program Office, said that the commercial remote sensing market is a “very important market to the U.S.,” adding that the NRO recognizes that its decisions on acquisitions have a major impact.
Interest in SAR satellite imagery is growing within U.S. defense and intelligence agencies for monitoring and to augment the insights acquired through visual imagery. SAR sees through clouds and other atmospheric obstacles that interfere with optical satellites.
The interest is being spurred further by alarming revelations that came to light thanks to commercial satellite imagery. Among them were photos taken recently photos by commercial satellites and analyzed by arms control experts, revealing that China is building 119 silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles in a desert in the northwestern part of the country.
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