Intel/GEOINT

The NRO wants to ensure its data can be fed directly to the war fighter

The National Reconnaissance Office is writing new interface standards to ensure its data will be compatible with the Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control system.

The NRO acquires and operates the United States’ spy satellites, collecting and disseminating vast amounts of signals and geospatial intelligence. Now, as the DoD works to build a new Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system, the agency is working to ensure that it’s data will be able to flow directly from its satellites and data processors to the war fighter.

JADC2 is a new data architecture being pursued by U.S. Air Force and Space Force leaders that will connect sensors to shooters. Once in place, JADC2 will allow platforms from all services to receive, fuse and incorporate data from multiple sensors from any domain for targeting and other operations. The Air Force has been building and testing the Advanced Battle Management System for just this purpose.

In an April 24 webinar hosted by the Mitchell Institute, NRO Deputy Director Maj. Gen. Michael Guetlein said his agency was preparing its data to feed into JADC2.

“The data that we are collecting and the data that we are processing, we are distributing it more widely than we’ve ever done before, and we are partnering with the standup of JADC2 as well as a couple of other C2 systems to make sure that as those systems come online, our data can seamlessly flow into those C2 systems and be able to make it directly from the sensor to the shooter,” he explained.

“Today, we’re writing the interface standards to make sure as we build these next generation systems—both sensors and processors—that they can all interface seamlessly machine to machine,” he added.

In other words, once JADC2 is in place, platforms will be able to easily receive and utilize data from intelligence community satellites, not just the constellations owned and operated by the U.S. Space Force.

And it’s possible that the NRO’s data will be delivered to war fighters through a new space-based mesh network being developed by DoD.

The Space Development Agency has confirmed that their planned proliferated low earth orbit constellation—which will eventually be made up of hundreds of small satellites—will be the space network component of JADC2.

“That is going to be what we use for low latency (communications) to be able to pull these networks together, and that, in essence, is going to be the main unifying truss for the JADC2 and that effort moving forward. That is going to be the space network that is utilized for that,” explained SDA Director Derek Tournear at an April 2 industry day.

The SDA is on the verge of releasing a solicitation for the initial tranche of satellites that will create a space-based mesh network using intersatellite optical links. The agency has said that solicitation should be expected May 1.

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