ST. LOUIS—The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on Monday released a new draft solicitation to alert potential commercial vendors of its plans to award contracts to have a look at the latest in satellite-based electro-optical (EO) technology for imaging the Earth.
The draft Request for Proposals (RFP) is expected to lead to a final RFP this fall, which will allow NRO to contract to “see what other EO or closely related phenomenologies are out there,” Pete Muend, director of the agency’s Commercial Systems Program Office, said during the annual GEOINT 2023 Symposium here.
The draft RFP wasn’t publicly released. Instead, the agency’s acquisition policy limits RFP access to vendors that are registered through its Acquisition Center of Excellence (https://acq.westfields.net/). The RFP will be issued through the NRO’s Strategic Commercial Enhancements Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), which allow the agency to relatively quickly award contracts to commercial suppliers.
The forthcoming procurement follows a 10-year, $4 billion contract NRO awarded in May 2022 to
Maxar Technologies, BlackSky Technology [BKSY] and Planet Labs [PL] to provide commercial satellite-based EO imagery under the Electro-Optical Commercial Layer program. The awards are the largest commercial imagery contracts ever from NRO.
Muend said the EO technology has changed in the last year or two, which is the reason for wanting to take a peek at the latest offerings.
In April, NRO Director Chris Scolese said the new RFP for commercial EO will be open to U.S. companies and U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. He said that the awards under the BAA have typically been made within three months of an RFP release.
Muend said that phenomenologies that may be of interest will go beyond “standard panchromatic” to include infrared and non-Earth imagery to “see what mission utility” they can bring.
As with previous Strategic Commercial Enhancement BAA RFPs used to acquire satellite-based radio frequency and hyper-spectral imagery, Muend said that the barrier to entry for an award is low. The first phase is focused on modeling and simulation and once companies have satellites in orbit “we’ll be able to get our hands on some imagery” to assess its usefulness, he said.
“And over time, make sure we can leverage the best of what commercial industry can bring to bear as part of our larger hybrid architecture on the on the IC (intelligence community) side,” he said.