COMMERCIAL USE OF SATELLITE IMAGERY

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					                                                  TECHNOLOGY


                  COMMERCIAL USE OF
                  SATELLITE IMAGERY
                  Friend or Foe — The Choice is Ours
                                              Maj. Tim Hawes, USAF



W
     ith the advent of commercial            proved just as important in World
       licensing of U.S. commercial          War II for U.S. operations. During the
       satellite builders, the possibility   Cold War, highly secret national tech-
       exists for the Department of          nical capabilities evolved to provide
Defense (DoD) — or its adversaries           imagery data to those in the national
— to purchase military operations            security community. Today, we’ve
planning data in the form of 1- to 3-        seen the technology shift dramati-
meter imagery. When U.S. commer-             cally to a point where civilian and
cial satellite makers launch their first     commercial satellite operators sell
vehicles into low earth orbit in the         imagery data with operational sup-
1997-1998 time frame, the DoD will           port quality to worldwide civilian cus-
be faced with a delicate choice of           tomers, even potential U.S. adversar-
whether or not to buy imagery to             ies. This growing availability of
supplement their operations planning         increasingly higher quality imagery
and execution needs. While this is           brings opportunities and challenges
not a new choice given the existing          for the U.S. military’s operational
LANDSAT and SPOT satellites, the             forces as they attempt to meet the
enhanced commercial capabilities             expanding mission assignments given
promise to offer an even more tempt-         them in today’s turbulent environ-
ing product. This development forces         ment.
new questions on the military Ser-
vices at a time when they are being          Initial Commercial Imagery
pushed to satisfy more of their needs        is Still Available
with commercially available products.           Government sponsorship was the
                                             catalyst for development of medium-
Opportunities and Challenges                 to low-resolution imagery (10-meter
   Since the advent of reconnaissance        on up), currently available for global
airplanes in World War I, we in the          purchase. Starting in 1984, the U.S.
U.S. military relied on remote sensing       Government put the imagery of
data in the form of imagery to support       LANDSATS 4 and 5 in the hands of a
our operations. Photo reconnaissance         private company for operations and
                                             marketing. These two satellites have      Satellite image of Langley Air Force Base,
                                             six bands of imagery, with 30-meter       Va., taken on 11 June 1988, at 3.5m resolu-
   Maj. Hawes is a Space Budget/Con-         resolution and a thermal band of 120-     tion by a Russian KVR-1000 Resurs satellite.
gressional Staff Officer, Assistant Sec-     meter resolution.1 The satellites were
retary of the Air Force for Acquisition,     digitally recording the world in 185km    NASA is currently developing
Pentagon, Washington, D.C., and a            x 185km image data sets since the         LANDSAT 7, anticipated to launch in
former member of the Defense                 launch of LANDSAT 4 in 1982, fol-         1998. The Clinton administration con-
LANDSAT Program Office. He is a              lowed by LANDSAT 5 in 1984. While         tinues to foster earth remote sensing
graduate of PMC 94-2, DSMC.                  LANDSAT 6 failed to reach final orbit,    for worldwide public use.


Program Manager                                               44                                              March-April 1995
    While the U.S. instituted                                                   lite — which has an announced reso-       U.S. commercial space marketplace.
LANDSAT, the French Government                                                  lution of 1 meter.” We as military        These systems would all have imag-
sponsored their own remote sensing                                              operators ought to be interested in       ing capabilities in the 1- to 3-meter
capability — the SPOT satellite. The                                            who is taking advantage of this capa-     resolution range. They are vying for
latest in this series, according to Avia-                                       bility and how this might impact our      the mixture of commercial, civil gov-
tion Week & Space Technology (4                                                 planning and operations.                  ernment and national security mar-
October 1993), “SPOT 3 began Sept.                                                                                        ket share that has purchased
27 [1993] to return excellent pan-                                              Other Countries Offer                     LANDSAT and SPOT images to this
chromatic images with 10-meter (33-                                             Imaging Capabilities                      point. They will also be trying to
ft.) resolution and three bands of                                                 Following the lead of the other        branch into the much bigger aerial
multispectral data at 20-meter (66-ft.)                                         space-faring nations, Russia presented    photography market.
resolution.” These imagery data are                                             imagery for sale to the world commu-
also available for purchase by the                                              nity starting in the late 1980s. Today,      For instance, WorldView Imaging
world community and bring the capa-                                             Russia maintains Resurs — an earth        and CTA Inc., plan to launch two
bility of stereo imagery formats for                                            resources satellite — with imagery        satellites with 3-meter resolution in
                                                                                available for purchase. Also, Russian     the 1995 time frame to compete in
                                            Photo courtesy of Autometric Inc.




                                                                                panchromatic images with resolutions      this market.4 Eyeglass International,
                                                                                down to 2 - 3 meters are available in     a jointly owned company formed by
                                                                                the U.S., sold through EOSAT — a          GDE Systems Inc., Litton Itek Optical
                                                                                joint venture of General Motors and       and Orbital Sciences Corporation re-
                                                                                General Electric (based just outside      cently won a license from the Com-
                                                                                Washington, D.C. in Lanham, Mary-         merce Department to proceed with a
                                                                                land). These film-based images are        1-meter resolution satellite system to
                                                                                estimated to come from the “Russian       be launched by 1997.5 As reported in
                                                                                Kometa fourth-generation reconnais-       Aviation Week & Space Technology
                                                                                sance spacecraft,” as detailed in a 23    (23 May 1994), Lockheed’s board of
                                                                                May 1994 Aviation Week & Space            directors recently approved invest-
                                                                                Technology article.                       ment in a 1-meter resolution satellite
                                                                                                                          system that could also be operational
                                                                                    Other countries besides the U.S.,     by the end of 1997, and could involve
                                                                                France and Russia have flown imag-        other U.S. and foreign partners.
                                                                                ing satellites and offered the data for
                                                                                sale. These include Japan (MOS-1             In addition, Litton Itek Optical
                                                                                and 1B, JERS); European Space             entered into separate discussions to
                                                                                Agency (ERS-1); and India (IRS-1A         build a reconnaissance satellite sys-
                                                                                and 1B). South Africa displayed a         tem for the United Arab Emirates,
                                                                                model of a 1.5-meter resolution —         with an expected resolution as good
                                                                                “Green Sat” — and announced its           as 0.8m, according to Aviation Week
                                                                                intentions to launch in 1995. Japan       & Space Technology (21 June 1993).
                                                                                has similarly announced a new satel-      Meanwhile, NASA selected two firms
                                                                                lite — “Hiros” — to have a 2.5-meter      — CTA Inc., and TRW — to build light
                                                                                panchromatic resolution comple-           satellites for earth remote sensing.
                                                                                mented by 10-meter multispectral          While CTA’s solution will be in the
                                                                                bands.2 In addition, Germany, China       medium (3-meter) resolution class
                                                                                and Israel are all believed to have or    (and identical to the two planned to
                                                                                be developing reconnaissance satel-       be flown commercially), TRW’s will
                                                                                lite capabilities.3 The availability of   combine a 30-meter resolution multi-
                                                                                imagery from other country satellite      spectral imaging (MSI) capability with
added usefulness. France has been                                               operations will continue to grow as       5-meter panchromatic capability.6
working on an improved capability to                                            the technology improves and becomes
follow SPOT 4, for use in military                                              more easily available.                       These cases illustrate the search
reconnaissance. In fact, according to                                                                                     by U.S. aerospace firms to broaden
the 21 June 1993 issue of Aviation                                              Potential Commercial Satellite            into the growing commercial remote
Week & Space Technology, “...France                                             Operations from the U.S.                  sensing marketplace and the result-
has been actively seeking users for its                                           Several U.S. companies have re-         ing pressure on the U.S. Government
Helios military reconnaissance satel-                                           mote sensing efforts under way for the    to “ease export restriction on higher-


Program Manager                                                                                  45                                          March-April 1995
resolution imaging satellites and data                                                 have access to this open flow of re-
in order to compete with foreign sys-                                                  connaissance quality data in the form
tems offering resolutions of 1 meter or
                                                   With GPS                            of commercial satellite imagery. U.S.
better.”7 This competition will only              information,                         commanders must assume that our
increase the on-orbit capabilities                                                     opponents have access to this kind of
available through the commercial              these data could                         information and could be forewarned
marketplace. We in the military need                                                   of U.S. intentions, and even our spe-
to be aware of the evolution in space-           potentially be                        cific operational plans unless we main-
borne imaging capabilities over the                 used for                           tain operational security precautions.
next 5 years. We will have the option                                                  With GPS information, these data
of acquiring the data for our own                  calculating                         could potentially be used for calculat-
uses, but we cannot ignore this evolu-                                                 ing target coordinates of U.S. installa-
tion any longer — or we will pay the                  target                           tions by an enemy force. We will be
price in future missions.                                                              facing a capable threat that did not
                                                coordinates of                         exist 5 years ago.
How Will the New Availability                          U.S.
of Data Look?                                                                             An opportunity arises for us as
   With the successful launch of one,          installations by                        well, since we are in an excellent
some or all of the potential U.S. com-                                                 position to take advantage of the grow-
mercial capabilities, combined with           an enemy force.                          ing information flow. In many in-
the expanding foreign space remote                                                     stances, we are already capable of
sensing capabilities, there will be a              We will be                          accepting digital satellite imagery.
burgeoning selection of satellite im-         facing a capable                         Today for instance, according to the
agery data in the near- to mid-future.                                                 Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) in
The data will fall into the range of 1- to      threat that did                        their publication, Digitizing the Fu-
5-meter data (typically in a panchro-                                                  ture (3d Edition), “DoD uses multi-
matic, or black and white band), with              not exist 5                         spectral imagery (MSI) for geographic
much of it complemented by coarser                                                     information applications, bathymetry,
resolution MSI. These multispectral                years ago.                          special map products, trafficability
data add entirely new dimensions to                                                    analysis, aircrew perspective views
the image data utility — dimensions                                                    and contingency planning. The use of
beyond the scope of this article. Not        increase in space platforms and           MSI is developing throughout DoD
only will resolutions improve, but with      ground processing capabilities, the       agencies, Services, and the Unified
new sensor technologies the width of         time lines for providing a requested      and Specified Commands...Aircrews
the image itself should also increase,       image should shorten dramatically.        using natural color perspective views
allowing single-image swaths of a            This will enhance the value of the        created by ‘draping’ the imagery over
larger surface on the ground for a           imagery to support any operational        Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED)
given resolution.                            need.                                     said it was ‘like being there.’”

   Augmenting the increased resolu-              With the increasing number of sen-       Various agencies of the DoD pur-
tions, band sets and image surface ar-       sors and their enhanced area cover-       chased LANDSAT and SPOT for a
eas will be the ability to use Global        age, a correspondingly larger portion     number of years to supplement infor-
Positioning System (GPS) data to accu-       of the globe will be acquired and hence   mation that they normally obtain
rately relate the space images to actual     be available as imagery stored in ar-     through other means. As pointed out
ground locations. This ability to pre-       chives for manipulation and exploita-     in Digitizing the Future (3d Edition),
cisely locate ground objects in scene        tion by the commercial public, for-       “The Defense Mapping Agency is the
data sets is a major improvement not         eign countries and, of course, the U.S.   primary action office for the procure-
only for cartographers and urban plan-       Government and Armed Forces.              ment of MSI [multispectral imagery]
ners, but for anyone interested in using                                               remote sensing data by the Depart-
the satellite imagery for calculating po-    Challenge and Opportunity                 ment of Defense agencies and Mili-
tential target coordinates.                  for U.S. Forces                           tary Departments.” In fact, the De-
                                                The challenge for those of us in the   fense Mapping School offers a 10-day
   Another related factor is the time-       U.S. Armed Forces will be to operate      course to DoD personnel for “famil-
liness involved with actually acquir-        in environments where potential ad-       iarization training in the analysis, in-
ing an image of interest and making it       versaries, such as Third World na-        terpretation and application of digital
available to the end user. With the          tions or even terrorist groups, will      MSI.” Accordingly, some of us in the


Program Manager                                               46                                           March-April 1995
military are already aware of how this        An example showing civilian use        and data...derived from commercial
unclassified imagery is useful to aug-     of commercial satellite imagery com-      imaging satellites for their usefulness
ment our normal mission data.              bined with seismic data occurred when     in satisfying DMA customer require-
                                           the Verification and Technology In-       ments.”10 In an era of diminishing
DoD Stated Needs                           formation Center (VERTIC) (based at       defense budgets, we in the DoD should
    The use of unclassified, commer-       Imperial College, London) announced       continue and potentially increase our
cially available data for the U.S. mili-   the location of a 5 October 1993 un-      use of commercial imagery to take full
tary was acknowledged again in a           derground nuclear explosion. VERTIC       advantage of the civil/commercial
February 1994 memorandum: “The             publicized its findings, including the    dollars already spent and to more
Joint Requirements Oversight Coun-         test site location in China, a mere 3     fully understand the potential threat
cil (JROC) has reviewed the Remote         hours after the event took place. The     to U.S. security.
Earth Sensing (RES) Mission Need           scientists used LANDSAT 30-meter
Statement...we believe other alter-        data and SPOT 10-meter data (al-
natives, such as an RES sensor on a        though they attempted to get Russian      Endnotes
DoD satellite (i.e., Defense Meteo-        higher-resolution data as well) to
rological Satellite Program), commer-      monitor and evaluate possible test        1. Freden, Stanley C. and Gordon,
cial satellite, foreign satellite...may    sites. The previously acquired imag-      Frederick, Jr., “LANDSAT Satellites,”
be cost effective and affordable.”8 In     ery along with the seismic informa-       Manual of Remote Sensing, Volume I,
this memorandum, the senior lead-          tion allowed the VERTIC scientists to     2d Edition (American Society of Pho-
ership validated our continued use         quickly eliminate potential sites and     togrammetry, Falls Church, Va.,
of RES data and recognized the like-       select the suspected test site once the   1983), pp. 517-570.
lihood that future image data may          seismic data indicated an event had       2. Asker, James R., “High-Resolution
come from a source beyond our con-         occurred.9 This example illustrates the   Imagery Seen as Threat, Opportunity,”
trol. More recently, as reported in        capabilities offered to us to augment     Aviation Week & Space Technology
Aviation Week & Space Technology           the existing DoD structures as well as    (23 May 1994), pp. 51-53.
(23 May 1994), the U.S. Air Force          the possibilities of some other group     3. Lenorovitz, Jeffrey M., “Industry Press
and DMA reportedly purchased Rus-          tracking our activities in the future,    CIA to Ease Curbs on Imaging Satel-
sian “Earth Resources” imaging data        especially when improved satellites       lites,” Aviation Week & Space Technol-
sets for evaluation of the unclassi-       reach orbit.                              ogy (21 June 1993), pp. 80-81.
fied data’s applicability to DoD                                                     4. Nordwall, Bruce D., “Digital Imag-
needs.                                     Conclusion                                ing Boom Exploits Technologies,”
                                              The availability of commercially       Aviation Week & Space Technology (6
Potential Uses of Future                   supplied satellite imagery in 1- to 3-    June 1994), pp. 40-42.
Purchased Imagery                          meter resolutions presents both an        5. Asker, James R., “High-Resolution
    With access to commercial imag-        opportunity and a challenge to the        Imagery Seen as Threat, Opportunity,”
ery data comes some advantages for         DoD operational forces. Through           Aviation Week & Space Technology
our operational forces. In planning        seeking to understand this opportu-       (23 May 1994), pp. 51-53.
for humanitarian and joint operations      nity, we will discover the challenge to   6. Asker, James R., “SmallSat Pacts
the commercial imagery is very useful      our forces. This growing number of        Key to NASA Reform,” Aviation Week
as a common reference graphic, since       satellite systems supplying imagery       & Space Technology (13 June 1994),
it’s already unclassified and can be       with varying qualities to multiple us-    pp. 56-57.
distributed quickly to our allied part-    ers must be taken into consideration      7.Lenorovitz, Jeffrey M., “Industry
ners or participating local officials.     by our military leaders as they plan      Presses CIA to Ease Curbs on Imaging
Some U.S. forces have already used         operations for U.S. forces. Our com-      Satellites,” Aviation Week & Space Tech-
LANDSAT and SPOT data to make              manders must assume that their ad-        nology (21 June 1993), pp. 80-81.
image maps with this in mind. The          versaries have access to this level of    8. “Remote Earth Sensing,” Joint Re-
multispectral aspect of this future        satellite imaging capability, and con-    quirements Oversight Council Memo-
imagery, while not discussed here,         duct their operations accordingly.        randum 014-94 (17 February 1994).
also addresses new areas of DoD re-                                                  9. Gupta, Vipin and McNab, Philip,
sponsibility, such as environmental           The former Director, DMA, Maj.         “Sleuthing at Home,” Bulletin of the
impact analysis for use during base        Gen. William K. James, USAF (Ret.),       Atomic Scientists (December 1993),
cleanup operations. Also, we must          set the tone for his own agency and       pp. 44-47.
address our vulnerability to potential     perhaps for the rest of the DoD: “It is   10. “Multispectral Imagery (MSI)
compromise through an adversary’s          the policy of the Defense Mapping         Applications,” Digitizing the Future,
access to the same commercially avail-     Agency to review and analyze map-         3d Edition (Defense Mapping
able data.                                 ping, charting and geodesy products       Agency), p. 85.


Program Manager                                             47                                            March-April 1995

				
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