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Future Imagery Architecture [FIA] - Phase C

Initially it appeared that "Phase C" would be separated into satellite, integration and ground segments. Previous NRO procurements had been split among satellites, ground hardware and data processing. Six teams were competing for different parts of FIA. Some vendors were bidding on all segments, and theoretically a single contractor could win it all. In all cases, three or more teams were competing for a major component. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Spectrum Astro were initial bidders for the FIA electro-optical spacecraft. These three companies, along with Orbital Sciences Corp. and Loral, bid on the imaging radar spacecraft. Both Northrop Grumman and TRW [a major imagery satellite subcontractor] were allied exclusively as subcontractors to Lockheed Martin in the FIA bid. Lockheed Martin supplied all of the NRO imaging spacecraft currently in orbit. The Improved CRYSTAL [Advanced KH-11 KENNAN] electro-optical spacecraft are built at a facility in Sunnyvale CA which was part of the original Lockheed Corporation. The ONYX [LACROSSE] imaging radar satellites were built at a Denver plant that was part of the former Martin Marietta Corp. At that time the final spacecraft under these contracts were expected to be launched by 2002 [in fact, the last launch occured in 2005].

Lockheed Martin and Boeing were the only bidders on the NRO's request for proposal, which required three bids: one for the electro-optical satellites, one for the imaging radar satellites and a combined bid for both. The NRO, under pressure from Congress to cap costs, asked the companies for winner-take-all bids to build both imagery systems. Boeing offered substantial savings through use of common spacecraft platforms and infrastructure on the two systems. While Lockheed Martin's proposal used common platforms, it was said to be less innovative, offering less performance at a higher cost. Boeing's proposal was about $1-billion cheaper than that of Lockheed-Martin.

On 03 September 1999 the NRO awarded a contract to the Boeing Company, Seal Beach CA, to develop, provide launch integration and operate the nation's next generation of imagery reconnaissance satellites. This award was the largest and last element of the NRO's Future Imagery Architecture program. The multi-year effort will provide a more capable but less costly means of fulfilling the nation's imagery needs and includes the ability to accommodate commercial products. The contract cost was classified. Satellite deployement was to begin around 2005.

FIA did not include either of the two more radical approaches that some have advocated. One alternative would building satellites that would orbit at much higher altitudes, providing more time over a target [the 8X System]. This would satellites that are much larger than they are now -- with larger optics and radar antennae -- for image quality to remain equal. The other approach would building a larger constellation of smaller, cheaper satellites that could provide virtually constant coverage of targets.

For the first time, the design of an NRO system was dictated more by requirements and less by technology, and was "capped" in terms of overall system cost. As a consequence of the requirements versus technology change, it was intended to deliver imagery, of which much could be acquired from commercial imagery providers whose technology is not far below that of the NRO. As a consequence of the funding cap, as of 2000 there were five capabilities validated by the JCS, which FIA will not provide. From the Commission's perspective, the phasing of FIA, which delayed integration of airborne and commercial imagery into the "system," was suboptimal.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:49:11 ZULU