NRO Leverages Commercial Satellite Imagery Capabilities

Maxar’s WorldView Legion satellites. Credit: Maxar

Article: NRO’s strategy to buy satellite imagery shaped by thriving commercial market (’s Sandra Erwin reports on a new plan for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to procure commercial satellite imaging capabilities. The new program, called the Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL), is intended to open government procurement of satellite imagery to multiple new commercial vendors from the sole-source arrangement that has existed with DigitalGlobe (now Maxar Technologies) for the past decade. A key component of the program is providing an “on ramp” for new potential competitors in the sector, offering funding for innovation and increases in capability to meet the NRO’s needs.

An potential space systems problem I took away from this article was with Space Vehicles. More specifically – space policy regarding space vehicles operating on orbit. With more private companies developing advanced capabilities for Earth imagery and data collection, there could be issues that arise with the types of data these companies collect. A threat actor may be interested in gaining access to Earth imagery data. Certainly the ground station could be targeted to gain access to that data through some method of attack, but it may become easier for a threat actor to simply circumvent Export Administration Regulations (EAR) on Earth imagery data by contracting the services of these companies indirectly through other private companies (obfuscating the threat actor). This could pose an issue to export control as more companies collect more types of data with greater capabilities on orbit.

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