The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has awarded two data integration study contracts, one to Capella Space, for commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and the other to Hawkeye 360, for commercial radio frequency (RF) remote sensing.
These contracts represent an important milestone in the agency’s strategy of embracing both existing and emerging commercial geospatial providers to create an integrated overhead architecture consisting of both national and commercial capabilities.
“The NRO is interested in better understanding the current capabilities of a variety of commercial vendors and assessing how those capabilities could potentially support the NRO’s national security mission,” said Pete Muend, director of the NRO Commercial Systems Program Office. “With these two contracts, we are exploring the integration of commercial SAR and RF in ordering and imagery delivery into the NRO architecture.”
SAR is an active imaging system that operates at frequencies unaffected by weather. As such, SAR can penetrate clouds, darkness and inclement weather to provide situational awareness under most conditions. These capabilities make SAR valuable for a diverse range of applications including intelligence analysis, battlefield reconnaissance, land and ocean monitoring, and natural resource and agricultural monitoring and assessment.
Commercial RF data collection and processing aims to provide analytics to identify and geolocate a broad set of RF signals, including broadcast messages such as shipborne Automatic Identification Systems.
Under the study contract, HawkEye 360 will perform assessments, demonstrations, and analysis to validate that commercial RF survey, ordering, cataloging, and data products can integrate into the NRO architecture. These demonstrations will support the review and enhancement of commercial processes for the development of an end-to-end management system.
These integration study contracts will allow the NRO to evaluate the companies’ capabilities to meet NRO requirements. This helps the NRO effectively use the full breadth of commercial imagery providers’ capabilities across multiple phenomenologies.
The contracts to Capella Space and Hawkeye 360 join four commercial imagery studies previously awarded by the NRO to Black Sky, HySpecIQ, Maxar Technologies, and Planet.