The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has developed a large optics technology development plan that provides a viable means to produce large optics that will underwrite future GEOINT capabilities to meet new persistence requirements and enable increased intelligence value.
Continued emphasis on technology development and maturation is essential to affordably achieving larger apertures and exploiting their capabilities. The NRO program has identified the key constraints and contains technology investments to address these constraints and reduc e risk prior to key milestone decisions. Additionally, there are a number of constraining integration and engineering program challenges that must be considered throughout the decision points allowing potential on-ramps for greater capabilities. The NRO is pursuing a well-defined systems engineering process that is closely coupled to user requirements.
Technology demonstrations and pathfinder programs are key parts of the NRO approach to inform major decision points and reduce risk in future systems. Technology insertion is another important aspect of the NRO’s large optics approach. Additionally, flexibility is found in the NRO’s use of multiple developers for each critical technology to ensure capability diversity as well as industrial base resiliency.
There are opportunities for greater collaboration with other relevant government agencies—mainly NASA and DARPA who have similar mission interests in large optics with the potential to leverage collective interagency investments. Similarly, increasing the existing relationships with commerciallaunch providers has the potential to address a key constraint with substantive cost savings. Equally important is the need to conduct a systems analysis of the infrastructure required to build, transport, integrate and launch large optics to ensure appropriate investments are made in a measured, efficient manner.