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Program E-305

New Radar Capability

According to excerpts of classified budget documents published 29 August 2013 by the Washington Post, NRO suggested delaying “performance enhancements” for a group of satellites known as TOPAZ until a second generation of satellites is available. Topaz is thought to be a successor to Onyx, a radar imaging satellite.

04-12-07 — 05-11/12-08

By © Charles P. Vick 2007-8 All Rights Reserved

FIA – RADSAT Program E-305 New Radar Capability

The only remaining FIA spacecraft is the radar imaging single or multi dish vehicle of Program E-305 that is designed to replace the operational Lacrosse/Vega/Onyx spacecraft that are known to carry two elongated radar imaging dishes. The FIA, RADSAT is designed to be deployed in a constellation of spacecraft providing near real time constant coverage of points of interest. That program was transferred from the USAF to NRO in 2007, The Boeing spacecraft design had provoked complaints that its size and mass exceeded the programs desires requiring a much more expensive heavy lift booster driving the overall programs cost up. The last year has indicated that the spacecraft Program- 305 RADAT is much further along in development and is one of the reasons Boeing retained the program. This was after Boeing had had it FIA RECSAT program shut down and given to Lockheed Martin.

The FIA experimental radar imaging satellite must have been separated very early from the original common bus design approach and essentially taken over by the Boeing Hughes design integration group. Only two organizations bid the FIA, phase-C RADSAT imaging radar satellite contract they being Loral and Orbital Sciences Corporation but also presumable Lockheed Martin the prime contractor for the lacrosse RADSAT that lost the initial FIA, RECSAT, RADSAT contract. Boeing in fact won the RADSAT contract.

On 15 October 2007 Amy Butler of Aerospace Daily & Defense Report noted that the loss of a classified satellite after only 7 seconds on orbit prompted the review of software and processors that caused the most recent delay and a potential $1 billion overrun in Lockheed Martin's Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS). Industry officials said Lockheed Martin designed the safe-hold software and architecture for both the failed satellite and SBIRS. This classified spacecraft had some similar architectural qualities to that of the upcoming SBIRS geosynchronous spacecraft, which triggered a review of its processors and architecture in the summer of 2007.

The Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) is the NRO's initiative to define, acquire and operate the next generation imagery satellite architecture. The Enhanced Imaging System (EIS) represented the next generation of raw source material for exploitation within the US Imagery and Geospatial Information System (USIGS) Architecture, NIMA and NIMA's external customers. EIS consists of two effectivities, E-300 and E-305, that will provide new capabilities to the USIGS. USIGS must be capable of tasking, processing, archiving, disseminating, and exploiting EIS data. Many aspects of E-300 and E-305 will impact NIMA USIGS systems and programs which must be carefully assessed for proper integration throughout its entire life-cycle. Data format changes (E-300-Enhanced Collection System (ECS)) and new capabilities (E-305-new radar capability) were to result from these two effectivities.

On December 11, 2002, the Commerce Department announced that it would require Northrop Grumman Corporation to agree to certain restrictions to ensure continued competition for reconnaissance satellite systems in order for Northrop Grumman to proceed with its proposed $7.8 billion acquisition of TRW Inc. Reconnaissance satellites obtain information important to the nation's defence that is unavailable by other means, through key components called payloads that detect radar signals that bounce off of objects, and that detect radiation emitted or reflected by an object. Northrop is one of only two US companies that design, develop, and produce the payload used in reconnaissance satellites. TRW is one of only a few companies with the ability to serve as a prime contractor on U.S. government reconnaissance satellite programs. Northrop's acquisition of TRW will allow it to be both the prime contractor and the payload provider for reconnaissance satellites. Absent the requirements proposed by the consent decree, the vertical integration created by this merger would give Northrop the ability and incentive to lessen competition by favouring its in-house payload to the detriment or foreclosure of its payload competitors and by refusing to sell, or selling at disadvantageous terms, its payload to competing prime contractors.

2005 FIA Restructure

In July 2005 a panel reviewing FIA recommended that Boeing stop work on the electro-optical spacecraft, the primary component of the FIA program. Boeing evidently had over-promised and under delivered. While Boeing was experienced with launch vehicles and communication satellites, it had little experience in large electro-optical systems. The launch of the first electro-optical spacecraft had slipped from 2005 to 2009. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence met in executive session on July 22, 25, and 26 2005 to hold hearings on the results of the Future Imagery Architecture Red Team Review. Testimony was heard from departmental witnesses.

Roger Roberts, the veteran Boeing executive who oversaw the company's intelligence programs, abruptly stepped down in August 2005. Boeing named Howard E. Chambers vice president and general manager of Space & Intelligence Systems (S&IS), an operating division of Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). Chambers reported to Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems. Chambers was responsible for leading the people, programs and assets of the company's intelligence and space programs. These include Boeing's Satellite Development Center, Information Systems, Mission Systems and critical elements of the Future Imagery Architecture program. He also was Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Satellite Systems International, Inc.

In September 2005 it was reported that the Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte had decided to take away from Boeing Co. much the multibillion-dollar Future Imagery Architecture contract as a result of cost overruns and delays. Intelligence officials decided to transfer much of the work to rival Lockheed Martin.

Under the revised plan, Lockheed would build the electro-optical satellite. Boeing would continue developing the less complex imaging radar spacecraft, which was the smaller portion of the program. Boeing remained the prime contractor.

By 2005 the separate Space Radar project was intended to eventually become America's sole national security radar imaging program. The Space Radar project had emerged from the troubled Space Based Radar effort, and it was not initially clear how this was intended to interface with the FIA radar segment said to remain at Boeing. The FIA imaging radar was probably slated for an initial launch prior to 2010, while the Space Radar anticipated an initial launch no sooner than 2015.


1. Andrea Shalal-Esa, Lockheed, Boeing built failing spy satellite, sources say, Reuters, January 29, 2007 , p. 1 & 2. [ January 11, 2007 first reported by Reuters]

2. Andrea Shalal-Esa, Exclusive – U. S. NRO spy satellite may be total loss- sources March 7, 2007 , p. 1 & 2.

3. Andrea Shalal-Esa , U. S. spy satellite declared loss, to drop from orbit, Reuters, Aug. 3, 2007 , P. 1 & 2.

4. Amy Butler, Classified Satellite Failure Led To Latest SBIRS Delay, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, October 5, 2007, p. 1.

5. More Sbirs Trouble, (Edited by Dave Bond), Aviation Week & Space Technology October 8, 2007, Vol. 167, No. 14, October 8, 2007 p. 27.

6. Sbirs Slip, (Edited by Frank Morring. Jr.), Aviation Week & Space Technology, Vol. 167, No. 19, November 12, 2007 , P. 6.

7. Philip Taubman, In Death of Spy Satellite Program, Lofty Plans and Unrealistic Bids, The New York Times, November 11, 2007 , p. 1, 20, & 21.

8. , Future Imagery Architecture [FIA]

9. David A. Fulghum and Amy Butler , In the Cross Haires, Aviation Week & Space Technology, February 18, 2008 , pp. 38-39.

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