The National Reconnaissance Office has awarded a commercial imagery study contract to HySpecIQ as a way to better understand the company’s imagery capabilities and how commercial hyperspectral images can fulfill some of the intelligence communities geospatial needs.

Hyperspectral images comprise light from hundreds of colors across the electromagnetic spectrum, giving any object a unique signature. Analysts can study individual pixels of an image to identify specific objects or materials.

“HySpecIQ is developing interesting new hyperspectral imaging capabilities that have the potential to contribute to our current and future overhead architecture,” said Pete Muend, director of the NRO Commercial Systems Program Office in a Sept. 23 statement.

The award is one of four study contracts the NRO has set up as it prepares for the next generation of commercial imagery procurements in 2020.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced that the NRO would be taking responsibility for purchasing commercial imagery for the intelligence community from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. As part of its efforts for preparing for commercial imagery procurements in 2020, the NRO announced in June that it had awarded three commercial imagery study contracts to BlackSky Global, Maxar Technologies and Planet. The HySpecIQ contract is the first award offered to a commercial hyperspectral imaging company and represents the NRO’s interest in expanding its commercial imagery purchasing to diverse phenomenologies, a move the NRO said it would make in June.

“The next step is going to be looking at other contractors and other phenomenologies, radar and others, that are just in the incubation period in the commercial world,” Troy Meink, the director of the NRO’s geospatial intelligence directorate, said at the time.

All four studies will help the agency understand the satellite imagery capabilities of the respective companies and determine whether they reach government requirements.

The value of the awards was not included in the announcement.