NRO Announces Commercial Imagery Contracts to BlackSky, Maxar and Planet Worth Billions

CHANTILLY, Va. (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) today announced the results of its largest ever commercial imagery contract effort, awarding Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) to BlackSky, Maxar, and Planet. Valued at billions of dollars over the next decade, these contracts mark a historic expansion of the NRO’s acquisition of commercial imagery to meet increasing customer demands with greater capacity than ever before .

“The NRO has a longstanding strategy of ‘buy what we can, build what we must’,” said .Dr. Chris Scolese, director of the NRO. “The diversity offered by our expanding architecture comprised of both commercial and NRO systems increases our resilience and enables an integrated approach to the threats facing our Nation.”

Due to its unclassified and shareable nature, commercial remote sensing data offer important benefits, including increased transparency, mission-critical awareness , and humanitarian assistance. EOCL ‘s unique situational design, featuring user-friendly license agreements and built-in contract flexibility, maximizes shareability across a diverse customer base.

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SpaceX Orbits 53 Starlink Satellites in 21st Falcon 9 Launch of 2022

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launched 53 Starlink broadband satellites to low-Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 booster on Wednesday, May 18, from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first stage booster supporting the mission on Wednesday previously launched Arabsat-6A, STP-2, COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2, and one Starlink mission. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth and landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was SpaceX’s 14th launch of Starlink satellites this year, and the company’s 21st launch overall of 2022. SpaceX has launched 709 of the broadband satellites this year, and 2,653 Starlink spacecraft in all. Wikipedia reports that 2,354 satellites are currently functioning in orbit.

SpaceX has launched 860 payloads into orbit in its 21 launches. The total includes two rideshare missions with 145 small payloads, two Crew Dragon flights carrying eight astronauts to the International Space Station, two missions for the National Reconnaissance Office, and the launch of Italy’s military/civilian COSMO-SkyMed second generation Earth observation satellite.

SpaceX has said it is planning to launch more than 50 times this year. The company’s next flight is the May 25 launch of the Transporter-5 rideshare mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Calvelli Swears in as U.S. Air Force Space Acquisition and Integration Lead

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Frank Calvelli was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration during a Pentagon ceremony this morning, following his confirmation to the role by the U.S. Senate, April 28.
 
Prior to his confirmation, Calvelli worked at the National Reconnaissance Office and within industry. In this new role, he becomes the first service acquisition executive for space and serves as the senior acquisition executive for space programs within the Department of the Air Force.
 
“Congratulations to Frank on his long-awaited Senate confirmation and we are fortunate to welcome him to the Department of the Air Force team,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “Frank’s in-depth experience, knowledge and leadership will be invaluable to acquiring the transformational space-based systems we need to stay ahead of our pacing challenges, and in ensuring the U.S. Space Force meets its obligations as the great enabler and protector of the Joint Force.”
 
Calvelli’s priorities in his new role will revolve around enhancing the Department’s speed and collaboration in developing systems for the U.S. Space Force, while also synchronizing efforts across the Department of Defense and with broader government and international partners, to get new capabilities into the hands of warfighters.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NROL-85 Mission From Vandenberg

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-85 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: NRO)

CHANTILLY, Va. (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched the NROL-85 mission aboard a reflown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E located at Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) in California today at 6:13 a.m. Pacific Time. The Falcon 9 reusable rocket booster returned safely to Landing Zone 4 after delivering the national security payload to orbit.

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Third Time a Charm? SpaceX Will Try Launching NROL-85 on Easter Sunday From Windy Vandy

Falcon 9 with the NROL-85 payload on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I recently spent a week housesitting down in LA where the temperatures reached into the 90’s. When I arrived back home to Mojave on Monday night, I found that spring had turned back into winter in the High Desert: overnight temps a few degrees above freezing, 50 mph wind gusts, chilly temperatures during the day. Although the temperatures have risen over the last few days, the wind has been pretty relentless all week.

So, it’s little wonder they’re having the same issues with wind over at Vandenberg Space Force Base to the west of here. The winds forced SpaceX to twice scrub the launch of the NROL-85 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on Friday and Saturday.

Elon Musk’s company is set to try again on Easter Sunday. Falcon 9 has an instantaneous launch window at 6:13 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E).

If I’m awake, I’ll go outside and see if I can see the launch. Although nighttime launches are spectacular out here, they’re more difficult to see in daylight. It will probably be a distant contrail at best.

For everyone else, you can watch the live launch webcast starting about 15 minutes before liftoff. 

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched the NROL-87 mission in February 2022. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will return and land on Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Dutton Launches Australian Defence Space Command

Peter Dutton

During an address to the 2022 Royal Australian Air Force Air and Space Power Conference on Tuesday, Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton announced the creation of the new Defence Space Command.

An excerpt from the speech concerning the new command follows.

Peter Dutton
Minister of Defense

For any nation, losing access to space would have significant civil and military consequences.

Thus all nations have an interest in assuring their access to space.

It is a domain which must be used to deter aggression, rather than become a new realm for conflict.

So friends, to that end, it is my great pleasure today to officially announce the stand-up of Australia’s Defence Space Command.

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NRO Celebrates First Launch of 2022 and First SpaceX Falcon 9 National Security Launch with NROL-87

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-87 mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

CHANTILLY, Va., February 2, 2022 (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched the NROL-87 mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E located at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 12:27 p.m. PST. NROL-87 is the 60th launch since NRO began publicly disclosing launches in December 1996.

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SpaceX Plans Launch Double Header on Wednesday

Falcon 9 launches the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is planning launches from opposite coasts within two hours of each other on Wednesday.

A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the NROL-87 satellite from Vandenberg Space Force in California at 3:18 p.m. EST (12:18 p.m. PST/2018 GMT). The launch is for the National Reconnaissance Office.

A Falcon 9 will launch another batch of Starlink broadband satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:51 p.m. EST (2151 GMT).

It will be the second and third SpaceX launches in two days. A Falcon 9 launched the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Monday evening. SpaceX is aiming to launch a record 52 times this year.

SpaceX will webcast both launches beginning 15 minutes before takeoff at www.spacex.com.

NRO Selects Umbra for Strategic Commercial SAR Enhancements Program

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Umbra PR) – The NRO has selected Umbra for the first Focus Area—Commercial Radar—under the agency’s new Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Strategic Commercial Enhancements effort. Focused on commercial imagery and data, this initiative is specifically designed for the NRO to evaluate, leverage, and integrate new and emerging commercial phenomenologies like radar and radio frequency remote sensing.

“Supporting U.S. national security has always been core to Umbra’s mission and we are thrilled to be included in the NRO’s continued pivot towards a hybrid overhead architecture. We deeply believe that American companies in the commercial ISR space will make a very meaningful contribution to the U.S.’ ability to thrive.” said Jason Mallare, Vice President of Government Programs.

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PredaSAR, a Terran Orbital Corporation, Selected for NRO Geospatial Intelligence Contract

BOCA RATON, Fla. (PredaSAR PR) — PredaSAR, a Terran Orbital Corporation, has been selected for contract award under the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) Systems Acquisition Directorate’s Closed Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Strategic Collection Enhancements (SCE) in the Commercial Radar focus area.

PredaSAR is fielding one of the most technologically advanced commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems available in the satellite imaging industry. The PredaSAR constellation will offer robust capabilities to commercial and national security customers, including a flexible and responsive remote sensing platform, low latency, frequent revisit times, and the ability to host secondary payloads.

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Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc. Wins NRO SAR Study Contract

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Airbus U.S. Space & Defense PR) – The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Commercial Systems Program Office (CSPO) has partnered with Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc to evaluate Airbus’ market leading Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and its potential to support U.S national security and defense missions.

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ICEYE US Wins Contract To Participate in National Reconnaissance Office’s Broad Agency Announcement For Commercial Radar

IRVINE, Calif., January 20, 2022 (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE US, a subsidiary of ICEYE, the global leader in persistent Earth monitoring with radar satellite imaging, announced today that it has received a contract from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). This contract enables ICEYE US to participate in the NRO’s evaluation of commercial remote sensing companies operating synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.

With a focus on modeling and simulation, ICEYE US will support NRO’s detailed assessment of imaging modes, image quality, geolocation accuracy and coverage among other important technical parameters. The contract represents a critical step in NRO’s plan to leverage next generation commercial radar providers to deliver innovative, resilient, and responsive satellite imagery for intelligence, defense, and humanitarian efforts.

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Capella Space Awarded Commercial Radar Contract By National Reconnaissance Office

Capella will demonstrate high-resolution SAR imagery capabilities as part of the National Reconnaissance Office’s Broad Agency Announcement Framework for Strategic Commercial Enhancements

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 20, 2022 (Capella Space PR) — Capella Space, an information services company providing high-quality, high-speed Earth observation data on demand, today announced a new contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to demonstrate the company’s synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery capabilities. Through this contract, Capella will work with the NRO to provide SAR data modeling and simulation, end-to-end regional imagery responsiveness demonstrations, theater downlink demonstrations and sample imagery delivery.

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NRO Awards Five Contracts for Commercial Radar Capabilities on a Rapid Procurement Timeline

WASHINGTON (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) announced the award of five contracts for commercial radar capabilities under the agency’s new Strategic Commercial Enhancements Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Framework. Companies receiving contracts are Airbus, U.S.; Capella Space; ICEYE, U.S.; PredaSAR; and Umbra.

“We are very pleased with the response to the first focus area under our new BAA,” said Dr. Chris Scolese, NRO director, who announced the release of the BAA acquisition just three months ago. “We know that users across the National System for Geospatial Intelligence are eager to explore commercial radar, and these contracts will allow us to rapidly validate capabilities and the benefits to the national mission.”

The Strategic Commercial Enhancements BAA Framework is designed to reach across disciplines and the global commercial remote sensing market to drive innovation, explore new phenomenologies, and ultimately, to ensure that the U.S. government has access to the best available commercial remote sensing capabilities.

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Planet Federal Signs Contract Extension With National Reconnaissance Office

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PR) — Today, we are excited to share that our wholly owned subsidiary, Planet Federal, expanded our contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to provide the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community with continued access to Planet’s daily, unclassified satellite data. This contract modification expands NRO’s current access to now include monitoring over new areas of interest. 

The extension also includes continued integration efforts to make Planet’s deep archive – dating back to 2009 – and daily satellite data, available to NRO users through their Commercial GEOINT Integration (CGI) architecture. While Planet’s high-resolution SkySat data is already available through the CGI architecture, incorporating our medium-resolution PlanetScope data into the same system enables faster decision-making by providing users with data in a more user-friendly fashion. 

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