Friday, December 25, 2009

Israel Pushes New Satellite as Solution to U.S. Space Radar Needs



By Stew Magnuson

Israel Aerospace Industries has joined with Northrop Grumman in hopes that they can sell time on a radar imaging satellite to U.S. government agencies.Israel’s Ministry of Defense and contractor IAI developed the TecSAR satellite and is now looking to recoup some of its investment by following in the footsteps of commercial imagery and communication satellite companies that sell their services to U.S. military and intelligence agencies, said Seth Guanu, director of business development for national systems at Northrop Grumman.Radar satellites have an advantage over spacecraft that rely on visible light to take high-resolution images because they can peer through clouds and darkness.“They spent a fair amount of money for this satellite for their own military purposes … they have a definite interest in exporting that capability to other markets, and the U.S. is a natural potential market for them,” Guanu said.

The Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office pursued their own radar satellite program, which was cancelled last year because of technical difficulties and cost overruns. The NRO is believed to have other classified radar capabilities, but the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Air Force apparently want more, and less restrictive imagery, than the NRO spacecraft can provide. Commercial radar satellites could be used to peer at less important, or secondary, targets when the NRO satellites are focused on more important objects. They also do not have the same secrecy restrictions, and information gleaned from them can be shared with allies and those without top-secret clearances more easily.

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