Commercial satellite imagery and data can play a key role in national security. For example, the war in Ukraine has drawn attention to how governments are using commercial satellites to track troop movement and the impact of attacks.
The commercial space industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and therefore may be able to address more of the federal government’s imagery needs.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has collected information on contracts for the purchase and use of commercial satellite imagery by ten federal civilian departments and agencies.
GAO observed that five of 10 federal civilian departments and agencies—Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—reported current commercial satellite imagery contracts. The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury did not report current commercial satellite imagery contracts.
Officials from the five departments and agencies with contracts cited specific needs for procuring commercial satellite imagery, including needed revisit rates, rapid tasking, resolution, or wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum.
NASA reported the largest amount of commercial satellite imagery spending on current contracts for federal civilian departments and agencies with its officials reporting a total of $75,657,508 since 2018.
Eight of 10 departments and agencies reported that they use commercial satellite imagery acquired by the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) through their participation in the National System for Geospatial Intelligence or through their access to commercial imagery in NGA’s web-hosted service.
In a separate classified enclosure that will be provided to those entities with the proper clearance and need to know, GAO also reports on contracts for the purchase and use of commercial satellite imagery by DOD, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Read the full report at GAO