NIMA seeks 'Clearview' of world

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency has awarded contracts worth up to $500 million each to a pair of satellite commercial imagery providers to help the agency get a "clear view" of the world.

DigitalGlobe Inc., Longmont, Colo., received a $72 million award, and Space Imaging Inc., Thornton, Colo., got a $120 million deal. Dan Hinchberger, a contracting officer at NIMA, said each deal's initial amount is the minimum guarantee over three years, but each contract has a ceiling of $500 million over five years.

The contracts, collectively known as "Clearview," require commercial data providers to deliver high-resolution satellite imagery to NIMA. The Defense Department announced the contracts Jan. 16, and NIMA signed them today, according to an agency spokeswoman.

The satellite imagery vendors will provide commercial imaging satellites with nominal ground sampling distances of up to 1 meter for panchromatic sensors, which are sensitive to light of all colors.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper Jr., NIMA's director, said the private sector's contribution to NIMA has been "tremendous," and that Clearview strengthens that business partnership and "ensures a viable, internationally dominant U.S. remote sensing industry."

The new contracts replace a cumbersome licensing structure with a single license that permits sharing imagery with all potential mission partners, he said.

These contracts represent a new way of doing business for NIMA because now the agency is "buying capacity on the [commercial] satellites," instead of having to send orders for specific scenes the way it did in the past, Hinchberger said.

The Clearview agreements also include a broad sharing license, which allows NIMA to share the imagery collected with any of its mission partners, including other federal agencies, coalition partners and nongovernmental organizations. In the past, the agency had to purchase additional licensing rights in order to share the imagery, he said.

The guaranteed minimum imagery purchases will be funded with fiscal 2003 operations and maintenance money, with future awards subject to availability, according to NIMA.

The first year awards are $48 million for each company, with the second and third year amounts totaling $36 million for Space Imaging, and $12 million for Digital Globe, Hinchberger said.

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