Space: Losers Forced To Fly Commercial


September 22,2008:  Three years ago, the U.S. cancelled the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) system, after losing more than $10 billion on a poorly conceived and run effort to create a powerful new system of intelligence satellites. FIA is now being replaced by two commercial photo satellites, costing about $850 million each. These will be launched in four years.

The Future Imagery Architecture system was to be a new generation of smaller and more numerous spy satellites that would provide more coverage of targets down below, and, because of the larger number of satellites, a more difficult target for anyone seeking to destroy the U.S. spy satellite capability. The project, begun in 1998, was poorly designed and managed. In retrospect, it was doomed from the start because of a lack of technical talent on the government side, and the selection of the low bidder (Boeing) that lacked the experience and capabilities to carry out a job like this.

It has long been suggested that the government just rely on commercial photo satellites for their low resolution (able to detect vehicles and buildings) photo satellite needs. But the military and intelligence agencies often need more photo satellite time than the commercial companies can provide. The government also wants to insure secrets are kept by having complete control over a pair of commercial grade satellites.

The two new birds would take over the task of tracking troop movements, bases and military operations in general. Existing high resolution spy satellites designs are being improved, so that there will still be satellite up there that can get detailed (able to detect something smaller than an inch) photos of something the commercial grade images (able to detect something 12-18 inches in size) found interesting.




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