Archive for the ‘NRO’ Category

Delta IV As It Looked Carrying DSP-23

Busy hands are happy hands (within reason) I often say.

Therefore, the NRO should have happy hands based on the two ops they have coming up.

The link speculates about the NROL-32 and 49 missions which will ride on a pair of Delta IVs and are in the launch queue for October and January 2011 respectively.

NRO Launch Schedule

Posted: November 9, 2009 in Launch Manifest, NRO, NRO Launch Schedule
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While I’m not on the team that manages (or even reads) the NRO’s launch manifest, the fact their director has said they will launch several high-priority and high-priced satellites in the next 15 to 18 months is–based on history–a pretty bold prediction.

Let’s see: “couple” means two; “several” means three or more, right?

Space News reports  House leader Dutch Ruppersberger thinks House and Senate plans to approve “exquisite” electro-optical imaging capability is likely.  That effort would support the White House’s plan and is in conflict with Senators Bond and Feinstein who want a more commercial-based capability.

Also dribbling out are a few details for the exquisite system which boost its desirability vis a vis a commercial system like GeoEye.  For example,  James Clapper (now sporting whiskers–part of his tactical deception program to look less “former military“?),  the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, said the aperture size would be 2.4 meters.  This could provide six inch resolution.  Fused with other systems or enhanced with software, that type of resolution could be expected to get better and not worse.  GeoEye-1 has around a 18-inch resolution.

Next, new NRO Director Bruce Carlson (via  DoD Buzz) pledged new NRO systems would be on-time, on-budget, and on-spec.  Personally, I think that’s a check he won’t be able to cash, but I hope I’m wrong.  Perhaps the NRO’s estimating and program management skills are now much improved, or at least more realistic.

Finally, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair went out of his way to praise the intelligence capabilities of our national technical means in finding Iran’s previously undisclosed nuclear facility at Qom.

So, going into the fourth quarter, “exquisite” has a significant lead, the ball, the wind at its back, and momentum.  I’m betting on exquisite, brought to you by Lockheed-Martin.

Writing at Space News, Turner Brinton reports the NRO feels the intelligence community’s needs can only be met with some really good stuff.  “Some” in this case means two exquisite-type satellites.

NRO Director Bruce Carlson’s assertion is that the GeoEye and DigitalGlobe type systems with their sub half-meter panchromatic resolution arent’ good enough for certain applications.  As such, though somewhat counter-intuitive, they are therefore considered ‘risky’ in that they don’t satisfy a particular set of stringent requirements.

Senators Kit Bond and Dianne Feinstein disagree with the NRO’s assessment, which was driven by DNI Dennis Blair and has been signed off by the President.

It is somewhat befuddling how an NRO buy of satellites that are less expensive and less sophisticated can be reasonably called “untested and therefore riskier.”

If you want to say it’s riskier because our security needs mandate we have a mix of satellites including some that provide exquisite capabilities which the Senate bill (and the less expensive satellites cannot provide) does not allow for, I can see that, but I don’t think that’s the assertion being made.

GeoEye? DigitalGlobe? Radarsat (just kidding…a little).

Massive NRO Growth?

Posted: September 28, 2009 in ISR, NRO, space ISR, USAF

DoD Buzz reports on some of the fall-out of the DNI-directed Obering panel as it affects the NRO. Besides the options of 1) maintaining the status quo and 2) rewriting the NRO charter to give it all USAF and intel community space, there is a third option.

The third option will be for the NRO to operate all U.S. military and intel space and ISR assets. If the story is true, this third option would be organizationally revolutionary. Basically, we’d be talking about a Space Corps or something approaching a U.S. Space Force.

That by itself makes it unlikely to happen.

First, revolutionary changes rarely happen without a compelling entering argument, which seems to be conspicuously absent in this case. In fact, one could argue the NRO has not been a high-performing organization as of late, especially with regard to the FIA program. Maybe the nation would even be better off with the USAF taking over for the NRO?

Next, while divesting itself of the space mission would make sense for the Air Force in that it would be better able to focus on the air domain, I don’t think the USAF is organizationally or culturally ready for that moment.

Finally, there is the Congressional aspect. The Air Force has lots of friends and the NRO not so many. So again, unless the USAF was “all in” regarding a space takeover, it seems unlikely to happen.

Of course the stories may be mangled. However, I don’t think Bruce Carlson went to the NRO to fold the flag or shrink its mission. He’s been known to question the status quo, to include asking just why the Air Force has uniformed personnel doing space things that might seem better fitted to contractors or civilians.

Well, certainly no man-bites-dog story here, as the NRO has struggled mightily for the last decade or so.

The story leads by describing the NRO as a builder of satellites. Please. They are a buyer of satellites. Industry builds them.