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NRO awards contracts to BlackSky and Planet Labs for hyperspectral capabilities
ESA file image depiciting a hyperspectral slice of Plane Earth.
NRO awards contracts to BlackSky and Planet Labs for hyperspectral capabilities
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 23, 2023

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has awarded contracts to BlackSky Technology and Planet Labs Federal for the exploration of commercial hyperspectral image capabilities under the Strategic Commercial Enhancements (SCE) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) program.

BlackSky Technology, a geospatial intelligence solutions provider, has been selected for a multi-stage SCE BAA framework study contract. Brian E. O'Toole, BlackSky CEO, said, "This contract further expands BlackSky's long term relationship with the U.S. government as an innovation partner for leveraging advanced commercial capabilities to meet emerging intelligence challenges.

Next-generation hyperspectral imagery coupled with BlackSky's unique low-latency, high-frequency monitoring can expand real-time mission intelligence capabilities beyond the visible range. Today our multi-intelligence software platform combines electro-optical, SAR (synthetic aperture radar), and radio frequency data and analytics. Hyperspectral capabilities are a natural extension of our agile space architecture."

During the initial stage of the contract, BlackSky will demonstrate technical capabilities via modeling and simulation and validate business and cybersecurity concepts of operation. Hyperspectral sensors help mission planners characterize objects based on material makeup, which can significantly increase the ability to identify and maintain custody of objects of interest, penetrate enemy obfuscation techniques, and develop detailed pattern-of-life analyses in highly dynamic environments.

Planet Labs Federal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Planet Labs, has been awarded a multi-phased contract by the NRO for the agency's SCE BAA program specifically in the Commercial Hyperspectral Capabilities (CHC) focus area. Jon Powers, Planet Federal's General Manager, said, "Planet is extremely honored to continue as a valued and trusted commercial provider for the NRO.

"This award furthers our ability to work alongside the NRO to better serve the defense and intelligence communities. It also enables the NRO to better analyze and more quickly integrate commercial capabilities into their emerging hybrid space system architecture."

The collaboration will allow the NRO various options to conduct additional activities including modeling and simulation, evaluating future Planet capabilities, and demonstrating how Planet data may be integrated into the agency's existing operations.

Planet's hyperspectral payload is anticipated to support the NRO's mission with a spectral range of 400-2500nm, 5nm bands, and industry-leading signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) from the visible through the short wave infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Planet believes the data eventually collected by Tanager and distributed by Planet, Carbon Mapper, and its partners could help improve accounting and enable mitigation of anthropogenic methane emissions.

Both companies are expected to work directly with the NRO to explore how their hyperspectral capabilities align with the agency's national space security architecture. The contracts will enable the NRO to better analyze and more quickly integrate commercial capabilities into their emerging hybrid space system architecture.

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