August 30, 2012
Credit: Credit: Ben Cooper
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is focusing its research and technology investment on a variety of technologies meant to develop better power sources, advanced cyber capabilities and communications-related equipment, according to the agency’s fiscal 2012 budget request justification released this week under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The NRO says it is focusing that technology development on “utilization of on-orbit assets, and advanced ground processing that adds value to collected data,” according to the justification document obtained under FOIA by the Federation of American Scientists, which posted the document online.
Some of the research and technology being funded this year by NRO, the document says, includes the following: carbon nanotube (CNT) memory/logic, power cables and structural applications; third-generation long-duration CNT lithium ion batteries; radiation-hardened analog, mixed signal, and digital microelectronics; next-generation high-efficiency solar cells; advanced power electronics; and multi-intelligence (INT) ground-processing technologies.
NRO also is looking for phased-array maturity to provide horizon-to-horizon coverage.
And the agency is counting on its advanced technology programs — in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories — to investigate technologies for experimentation and potential demonstrations of “cyber-enabled concepts,” as well as to explore emerging opportunities for further technology investment. The agency also is pursuing new collection sources and methods scalable to space for geo-INT.
Regarding launch vehicles for its classified satellites, the NRO this fiscal year expects to do the following: perform early integration of NRO systems on new launch vehicles, perform launch vehicle performance and acquisition trades for new research and development programs; and analyze other innovative space lift concepts and new entrants for potential launch of NRO payloads, including reusable launch vehicles.
The agency also is funding “early investigation and analyses of advanced launch systems for potential NRO application.”
The NRO fiscal 2012 plan includes a $24.5 million cut from fiscal 2011 for launch vehicle advanced plans because the funds are needed to implement launch study recommendations. The NRO procures standard Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) hardware on a fixed-price basis, fully funded approximately two years prior to launch, and EELV heavy launch vehicles approximately three years prior to launch, the agency’s budget document notes.
“Well-defined mission-unique hardware plus integration efforts are funded beginning up to five years in advance of the launch date,” NRO says.