GEOINT 2021: While it is likely to be too far a stretch to say that the Intelligence Community is now embracing foreign-owned business distant sensing suppliers, there positively is a shift underway within the willingness to amass and use imagery produced by non-US satellite tv for pc operators.
The purpose? A examine completed within the spring by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), within the type of mock Olympic Games for distant sensing suppliers, twigged leaders to the truth that in quite a lot of key sensor applied sciences, non-US companies are on the head of the pack.
“As a community, we’ve begun to realize that there’s a better way,” Dave Gauthier, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Commercial and Business Operations unit, informed Breaking Defense on Thursday. Speaking after his presentation to the annual GEOINT Symposium right here in St. Louis, he famous that this occurring throughout the membership if the IC’s Commercial Space Council — together with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
NRO in its new Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Framework for Strategic Commercial Enhancements is permitting international owned companies with vetted US subsidiaries to compete for contracts involving new sensor tech, a change from its June draft request for proposals on electro-optical imagery.
Jeremy Banik, deputy director of NRO’s Commercial Systems Program Office, informed the GEOINT symposium on Thursday that NRO was accepting foreign-owned, and foreign-controlled US firms beneath the BAA “as long as these companies are domiciled at a principal place of business in the United States, and their ownership and control does not present an unacceptable security risk.”
The change in perspective, if not formal coverage, has been pushed by a examine by NGA in response to a National Security Council request for knowledge on international competitors within the world distant sensing market. NGA put collectively a “Commercial Imaging Olympics” within the spring, with Gauthier’s store developing with 9 technical efficiency parameters by which to guage business efficiency. These included the decision of a number of forms of sensors, the perfect video capabilities, and most frequent goal revisit instances. Companies then had been awarded gold, silver and bronze “medals” based mostly on their capabilities in every class.
And whereas many policy-makers assumed that US firms could be business leaders throughout the board, US companies received “gold” in solely three of the classes. This included San Francisco startup Capella Space, which took first place for finest SAR decision, Gauthier stated in his GEOINT presentation. Maxar Technologies, with its Worldview 3 constellation, received for finest electro-optical sensor decision.
Chinese companies additionally positioned first in three classes, with Gauthier noting that one of many insights that jumped out was how shortly Chinese companies have grow to be aggressive within the world market.
“One of the other things that was surprising to us is just how fast China is proliferating their orbiting EO constellations,” he informed the symposium. The Chinese satellites have high-quality video methods, he defined, in addition to excessive revisit charges. “Most people were not really paying attention that this had happened.”
And in different surprises, Gauthier stated, Finnish startup ICEYE, the primary business agency to launch an artificial aperture radar (SAR) satellite tv for pc in 2018, got here first in SAR-sat revisit time; and Argentina’s Satellogic, which has a constellation of 17 birds in orbit, received “gold” in multispectral imaging.
Driving IC Support For US Firms
The examine, which Gauthier defined was undertaken utilizing arduous knowledge though there have been some inner IC disagreements about judging methodologies, is also a part of the impetus for the IC’s renewed deal with supporting US distant sensing companies with contracts for knowledge, imagery and analytics. While the IC group was usually conscious that US companies weren’t at all times within the lead, the “Olympics” outcomes are virtually stupefying senior policy-makers, he stated.
“When we show these slides to policy-makers, they have a different reaction, and it usually goes like this: ‘When did this happen? How did this happen? What are we doing about this?'” he stated, mimicking a shocked face.
National safety management is also urgent the IC to reply the “hardest questions,” Gauthier added. These embrace: “Are there policies that we can change to make it more competitive for our country’s and our community’s commercial systems to keep their edge in this global competitive race?” Therefore, he stated, the difficulty of how finest to help and promote the US distant sensing business now's firmly on the desk for the IC Commercial Space Council.
Indeed, the shift within the emphasis on utilizing business distant sensing merchandise when in any respect attainable has been notable within the speeches of IC leaders right here this previous week.
“It is now a matter of policy, to consider commercial imagery first,” Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stacey Dixon informed the GEOINT symposium viewers on Wednesday. “This trajectory is set to accelerate.”