Small satellites and the insights they provide are proving valuable to the commercial sector, with some forecasts anticipating hundreds of SmallSats on orbit by the end of this decade. But the Intelligence Community has its eye on them as well. In an effort to further educate the GEOINT Community on the user needs for and capabilities of SmallSats, USGIF’s SmallSat Working Group is hosting a two-day workshop Nov. 16-17 at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Springfield, Va. The first day will be unclassified while the second will be classified.
The Nov. 16 unclassified agenda will include keynotes and panel discussions from top leaders in government and industry, including NGA Director Robert Cardillo; Chirag Parikh, director of the Space Policy National Security Council; Congressman Jim Bridenstine; Maj. Gen. Roger W. Teague, director of space programs at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the U.S. Air Force; Planet Labs Co-founder Robbie Schingler; BlackSky Global Chief Technology Officer Peter M. Wegner; and many others. Around 20 exhibitors are expected to be on site for demonstrations and discussions, including BlackSky Global, DAn Solutions, Hera Systems, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Luciad, Microcosm, Red Hat, URSA Space Systems, UrtheCast, and ViON.
Building off the first day, Nov. 17’s agenda will focus on current classified studies in resiliency and will include speakers from SmallSat programs at NGA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and more.
“The workshop will be the most significant gathering of GEOINT users and the growing SmallSat industry to date,” said Rob Zitz, co-chair of USGIF’s SmallSat Working Group and senior vice president and chief systems architect for the national security sector at Leidos. “We think this is a key milestone on the way to big changes for the community.”
NGA seniors are expected to discuss the agency’s new Commercial GEOINT Strategy at the Small Satellite Workshop. In response to the advent of SmallSats and other next generation commercial GEOINT products and services, NGA recently released the new strategy, which describes how it plans to leverage traditional, new, and emerging GEOINT capabilities. The strategy will assist in providing a roadmap for NGA to harness the unprecedented wave of persistence from commercial GEOINT providers for rapid delivery of imagery products and services.
“The new actors in our mission space—from developers of SmallSats to international partners to online communities of geographers and technologists—are alive with energy and ideas that can enhance our collective contribution to our national security,” said John Charles, NGA National Geospatial Intelligence Officer for Commercial Imagery. “The upcoming Small Satellite Workshop here at NGA is going to be an exciting step toward asking the right questions, facilitating synergistic exploration, and being open and accessible enough to learn.”
According to a recent Space News article, NGA is looking to collaborate with a number of new SmallSat organizations that are planning constellations expected to reach critical mass in the 2018-2020 timeframe.
“The Commercial GEOINT Strategy is the start of a new chapter for NGA and the community,” Zitz said. “[NGA] recognizes the enormous potential of the new generation of small, yet highly capable satellites to deliver not only persistence, but also GEOINT diversity and a level of space resilience we urgently need.”
Photo Credit: NASA