The NRO is looking at developing a diverse satellite fleet and modernizing AI-powered ground systems.

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COLORADO SPRINGS – The National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive U.S. intelligence agency responsible for operating the nation’s spy satellites, is developing a more diverse fleet of satellites as it revamps its ground systems.

NRO Principal Deputy Director Troy Menk said the agency is seeking to develop more diverse satellite architectures, including smaller and more maneuverable models, to deliver its intelligence across a wider range of orbits and mission profiles. Collection can be improved.

“We’re pushing the boundaries to ensure we stay at the leading edge of innovation,” Menk said in a keynote address at the 39th Space Symposium on April 9. “Over the next decade, we will continue to increase the number of satellites operating in multiple orbits, not only the large systems that are the traditional hallmark of the NRO, but also the smaller dispersed systems.”

Along with changes to its space systems, the NRO is also transforming its satellite ground architecture, investing heavily in new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to support its expanding satellite network. The flood of data coming in from work can be processed.

“Expanding our overhead architecture will allow for higher revisit rates, increased coverage, and timely delivery of information,” Menk said. “This will make our collection more agile, eliminate a single point of failure and make our towers more resilient.”

Earth system

A more diverse space architecture would allow the NRO to “collect more data,” he said. “So that means ground operations have to evolve as well. I think that’s actually one of the biggest challenges we face. … It’s not the bits that matter. That’s how the bits are organized into useful information. That’s what matters.”

The NRO’s push to modernize its ground system began several years ago, said Joshua Perius, a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. The company is the sub-contractor of NRO for land system modernization.

“The goal is more automated tasking and collection based on data models and less on human-planned activities,” Perius said. Space News.

“The NRO is exploring more advanced data processing and exploitation capabilities on the ground to make sense of the data it is collecting,” he said. “They need to be able to work faster, iterate, and exploit data from a more diverse and flexible constellation, while also leveraging the latest AI and automation tools,” Perius said.

AI and machine learning algorithms can help identify critical information and generate actionable intelligence faster than traditional methods, he said.

While specific details of the NRO’s plans are classified, Perius noted, the move to a more diverse satellite fleet and AI-powered ground systems marks a major shift for the intelligence agency.

The NRO’s fleet includes imaging satellites that take high-resolution pictures of the Earth’s surface, signal intelligence satellites that intercept and collect electronic communications, and others that analyze radio frequency and other emissions to learn about objects. I collect information.

Access to ‘enemy territory’

“Millions of people rely on us every day,” Mannick said at the Space Symposium. “Urban users rely on space aggregation to help them in natural disasters, to help predict climate change, and to help aid agencies know how and where to deliver humanitarian aid.”

He added that the Department of Defense and the intelligence community depend on the NRO’s capabilities, for example, for geolocation data and high-resolution imagery. “NRO systems are often the only tools that are able to access hostile areas or rugged terrain so that we can gather critical information.”

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