BOX 1.1

Milestones in NGA Core Areas for Defense and Intelligence Purposes




Congress authorizes the Topographical Engineers to conduct surveys to facilitate the safe movement of troops for the War of 1812


Observation balloons are used to take aerial observations during Civil War campaigns in Virginia


Aerial photography becomes a major contributor to battlefield intelligence during World War I


Sounding data are collected from a Navy ship for the first modern bathymetric chart


Second World War aviation enables photogrammetry, photo interpretation, and geodesy to replace field surveys


Project U.S. Magnet is created to measure magnetic variations around the Earth; the program continued until 1994


U-2 aircraft carry out manned reconnaissance missions, becoming the primary source for intelligence gathering over the Soviet Union and other denied areas


Successful return of imagery from CORONA, the first photoreconnaissance satellite system in the world


Development of a World Geodetic System (WGS 60), which defined a best-fitting ellipsoid and an Earth-centered orientation system and formed the basis of current global positioning systems


Launch of the Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite, the first satellite for geodetic studies


Start of the Special Mission Tracking Program to obtain atmospheric observational data in support of scientific space operations


First electronic dissemination of near-real time, near-original quality access to national imagery to assist in rapid targeting and assessment of strategic threats


The Navigation Satellite Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) Global Positioning System (GPS) becomes operational, providing accurate and continuous data on position, velocity, and time under all weather conditions


The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) becomes operational


Creation of Earth Gravity Model 96, improving accuracy in GPS readings, determination of satellite orbits, and geodetic satellite measurements


The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) begins to acquire elevation data over about 80 percent of the Earth’s surface using interferometric synthetic aperture radar


Different versions of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, a remotely piloted aircraft designed for reconnaissance become operational in service.

SOURCE: NGA historical reference chronology, <>.


NGA is one of sixteen federal agencies responsible for national intelligence. Its focus is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Issues that have a component of “where” or “when” potentially fall under the purview of NGA.

Most of NGA’s efforts are devoted to the provision of data, intelligence and services to users now and in the near future. Positioning the NGA for future capabilities is the responsibility of the InnoVision Directorate, which analyzes intelligence trends, technological advances, and emerging approaches to forecast possible environments and identify future needs. Demands for

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