The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has awarded Herndon, Va.-based HawkEye 360 a contract worth up to $10 million over five years for the geolocation of radio frequency (RF) emitters, NGA said on Sept. 27.
HawkEye 360 operates a constellation of nine RF-monitoring satellites and plans to launch 21 more satellites this year and next on the path to a full constellation of 30 satellites that the company said will provide data collection revisits every 20 minutes.
The company said that the commercial data “will support a variety of analytics missions for NGA, including military activity and the trafficking of military, nefarious, non-state and transnational criminal (or illicit) activity.”
“This data offers our analysts a new dimension that’s important for understanding our world and informing the effective tip and cue of imaging satellites based on a highly-dynamic threat environment,” David Gauthier, director of NGA’s commercial and business operations group, said in a statement. “Commercial RF GEOINT [geospatial intelligence] makes it easy to share these insights with our allies and partners to increase collaboration and jointly drive outcome success.”
NGA said that the contract with HawkEye 360 is based on the results of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) commercial integration study contract with HawkEye 360 last September “that NGA leveraged to access commercial radio frequency data.”
“The access provided NGA with insight into the commercial GEOINT market for detecting and characterizing radio frequency emitters, and enabled analysts to develop requirements and understand mission utility of the data,” per NGA.
Gauthier said that such “non-traditional data and services that are not pixel-based, such as RF geolocations, are becoming very useful tools for maintaining timely and relevant intelligence.”
Alex Fox, HawkEye’s executive vice president for business development, sales, and marketing, said that HawkEye 360 hopes to work with NGA “to address current mission requirements and expand the RF GEOINT tradecraft to address an even larger set of mission requirements, much like NGA has done with their pioneering use of commercial imagery.”
While the NGA and NRO have not disclosed the extent to which they rely on commercial capabilitites, such as imagery, NRO Director Chris Scolese has said that the agency is looking to take advantage of the commercial market (Defense Daily, July 20).
Scolese said that commercial space capabilities in electro-optical, radar, and launch systems will provide resilience and lower costs.
“Commercial systems are a part of our current architecture and are a more important part of our future architecture,” he said. “They’re providing capabilities that, in some cases, replace capabilities that the NRO has traditionally done. That allows us to focus in other areas where the challenge is greater, or there may be no commercial need for it, so it enhances our ability to address the national mission. It provides resiliency by having the capable systems up there that we don’t control but we can use, allows us to support the national infrastructure in ways that we couldn’t before by providing more global access in some cases, and commercial is developing capabilities that we can utilize.”
Section 303 of the Senate’s fiscal 2022 draft intelligence authorization bill would require the directors of the NGA and the NRO and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit a plan to establish a co-located joint commercial geospatial intelligence data and services program office and a commercial geospatial intelligence data innovation fund, while Section 304 would require NGA to develop a strategy for acquiring commercial GEOINT data services and analytics–a strategy that would include a plan “to increase purchases of unclassified geospatial intelligence data services and analytics, and to articulate any challenges to procuring geospatial intelligence data and services.”
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is to mark up its version of the fiscal 2022 intelligence authorization bill on Sept. 30.