WASHINGTON — The National Reconnaissance Office has extended and expanded its contract with Planet Federal for commercial satellite imagery, the company announced July 15.
Under the contract, the U.S. intelligence and defense communities will continue to have access to Planet’s unclassified daily 3-5 meter resolution imagery while also gaining limited access to the company’s video capabilities. The NRO first subscribed to Planet’s imagery service in 2019. Financial details of the subscription are not public.
Planet first began providing imagery to the intelligence community through a multiyear contract awarded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2016. The NRO took over that arrangement in 2019, as part of NGA’s effort to transition responsibility for acquiring commercial satellite imagery for the intelligence community to NRO.
“Planet is proud of its work to respond to the operational need for imagery on demand,” Planet CEO and co-founder Robbie Schingler said in a statement. “Repeated, daily imagery complements taskable systems and when leveraged together, compresses the time between event detection, threat identification and action — all in a manner that increases government resource efficiency.”
The announcement comes as the company prepares to go public through a special purpose acquisition company, a transaction it valued at $2.8 billion. Planet operates a fleet of about 200 satellites on orbit, capturing more than 3 million images daily of the Earth’s surface. The company is expected to go public by the end of the year.
In addition to the NRO subscription, Planet has secured other valuable contracts with the intelligence community. It was one of a handful of satellite imagery companies awarded study contracts in 2019 by NRO as the agency evaluated how commercial services could help it fulfill its mission. And in 2020, NGA added Planet’s data to its unclassified imagery portal — the Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery system — that can be accessed by the federal government and more than 50 foreign partners. The company seems intent to grow its ties with the intelligence community, hiring former NGA Director Robert Cardillo as chief strategist and chairman of the board of Planet Federal in April.
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.