COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—This fall the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) expects to issue its next request for proposals (RFP) under a commercial remote sensing effort for Innovative Commercial Electro-Optical (EO) capabilities, the agency’s chief said on Tuesday.

The acquisition will be open to U.S. companies and U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies, Chris Scolese, director of the NRO, said at the Space Symposium here.

“The commercial EO market continues to expand with new capabilities and new providers,” Scolese told attendees. “And we want to be able to assess and use these capabilities to support our mission.

The RFP will be issued through NRO’s Strategic Commercial Enhancements Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), a two-year-old program that gives the agency a flexible means to quickly host a competition and put vendors under contract as new commercial technology becomes available. The upcoming RFP is the fourth under the BAA, which has already resulted in multi-vendor awards in the areas of synthetic aperture radar, radio frequency, and hyperspectral imaging.

On average, these awards have been made in less than three months of when the RFP was released, Scolese said.

“For those of you who’ve done business with the U.S. government, you know that three months is pretty much like lightspeed,” he said, adding that, “We have a reputation across the government for our ability to reduce those traditionally lengthy development cycles, and we’re proud of it and want to keep on working on it with all of you.”

The NRO has also previously awarded satellite EO imagery contracts to Maxar Technologies

[MAXR], BlackSky Technology [BKSY] and Planet Labs [PL] under the separate Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) contract.

Later, during a media briefing, Scolese was asked what NRO is looking for with the pending Innovative Commercial EO RFP given that the EOCL contracts were awarded less than a year ago in May 2022. He replied that there isn’t something specific but pointed out that there are companies with new capabilities and sensors, new ways of processing data, and “different ways of implementing constellations.”

With these various new capabilities, the RFP will give NRO an opportunity to look more closely at them and give organizations a chance to better understand the agency’s needs so “we can determine collectively if we see a mutual benefit [and] how to make that happen in the future.”

The existing commercial EO satellite sensors remain important, he said.

“And they’re doing very, very well and we’re gonna continue to go off and use those,” he said. “So we’re looking for the next next step.”

Scolese also highlighted work NRO is doing with the U.S. Space Force in the areas of finding moving targets on the ground and at sea, and in space situational awareness.

“Today, the NRO and Space Force are working hand in hand to shape the future of ground moving target indicators (GMTIs), which will provide day, night, all-weather detection and tracking of ground and maritime targets for the warfighter,” he said.

He said NRO’s flexible acquisition approaches will give his agency and the Space Force the ability “to deliver an acquire reliable and resilient to GMTI systems at speed” and “in the very near future.”

This summer, NRO and Space Force will be launching the SILENTBARKER spacecraft vehicles for space domain awareness in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), Scolese told attendees during the morning session.

During the media briefing, he responded to a reporter’s question about the number of SILENTBARKER  satellites that will be launched that “I can confidently say more than one.” Once the satellites are operating, NRO and Space Force will need to understand what they can do for space domain awareness in the “GEO belt,” he said.

He expects good things.

“But I would expect that we’re gonna find out that it’s a very useful capability and receive additional satellites up there,” he said.

Scolese also highlighted that U.S. “competitors are developing weapons to destroy or interfere with our satellites kinetically or via directed energy from locations on the ground and in space. This includes cyber intrusions and cyberattacks that will be a perennial threat to all of our systems.”