The Defense Department and Intelligence Community intend to procure new imagery satellites and make greater use of services provided by commercial satellite imagery providers under a “2 plus 2” plan approved by the Obama Administration earlier this week to modernize the nation’s aging spy satellite architecture. The plan awaits Congressional approval for funding. In a release April 7, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said the joint initiative with DOD is “an integrated, sustainable approach” that would ensure that the nation “will not have imagery gaps” looking forward. “We are living with the consequences of past mistakes in acquisition strategy, and we cannot afford to do so again,” he said, adding that the time to move forward with this modernization is now. The new imagery satellites would be “evolved from existing designs, Blair said. The increased use of commercial satellite imagery will provide “more flexibility to respond to unforeseen challenges,” he noted. Once funding is secured, implementation will begin in the next several months, he said. The new commercial elements of the architecture would likely be available in the next several years, while the overall architecture would be fully deployed “before the end of the next decade,” Blair said. (For more, read the Associated Press’ April 8 report and Reuters report.) (For a short course in spy sats, read Air Force Magazine’s January article Ups and Downs of Space Radars)
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.