Commercial Space Remote Sensing and Its Role in National Security

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Over the past two decades, the pace of innovation in the commercial space remote sensing industry has accelerated. The capabilities provided by commercial firms can be used to complement government space systems across a wide range of national security missions and fill in gaps in capabilities where the U.S. government has lagged. The challenge for the military and intelligence community is understanding how to leverage commercial capabilities for military advantage while protecting national security and maintaining the health and competitiveness of U.S. companies in the global remote sensing market. This CSIS brief examines how the paradigm for space remote sensing has changed within the U.S. government, the ways commercial systems can support this new paradigm for national security missions, and the roles commercial systems can play in strategic competition. The brief concludes by looking at alternative acquisition approaches and key policy issues that should be addressed to fully leverage the innovation, capabilities, and additional capacity offered by commercial space remote sensing companies.

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