BlackSky Blog

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by | May 31, 2023

GEOINT 2023: BlackSky, the real-time intelligence industry’s pace car


Authored by BlackSky Vice President of Marketing Lyn Chassagne 

The annual GEOINT Symposium continues to be an exciting time for the geospatial intelligence industry. This event brings together stakeholders from across the community fostering important conversations around emerging technologies, new capabilities, and customer needs.

This event is especially important to the BlackSky team as it gives insight into industry trends, customer requirements, and how our suite of industry-leading capabilities stacks up. We had a variety of conversations with both U.S. and international government and commercial partners throughout the first half of 2023, and these sentiments have echoed into the programming of GEOINT 2023.

In reflection on last week’s event, it is clear that BlackSky has its finger on the pulse of the industry, serving as a “pace car” on key cultural, technological, and customer fronts. For those unfamiliar with motorsports, a pace car plays a crucial role: leading the way on the first lap around the track in a field of competitors.


Commercial capabilities help U.S. “move at the rate of change”

Frank Kendall, secretary of the U.S. Air Force, hit the nail on the head earlier this year during his Space Symposium keynote: commercial companies help the U.S. “move at the rate of change,” by developing new capabilities at a swift pace. Commercial companies aren’t hindered by traditional, lengthy procurement processes, and the U.S. government can take advantage of this streamlined process to increase mission capability, quickly.

Echoing this sentiment on the GEOINT 2023 Global Economy panel, Mike Cadenazzi, managing director at Ernst & Young, marked the importance of the U.S. government following through as industry partnerships keep allies ahead in the modern space race with China.

BlackSky has been part of this journey with the 10-year Electro Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the 5-year economic indicator monitoring contract with the National Geospatial Agency (NGA). This partnership isn’t just for current imagery and analytics – BlackSky continues to be an innovation partner as customers explore advanced future sensor capabilities such as hyperspectral, announced in March 2023.


Solving the most difficult ISR challenges is a team sport

The next phase of the U.S. government’s relationship with commercial space-based intelligence is well underway, as touched on last week by NGA Director Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth. As the U.S. continues to explore using artificial intelligence data fusion to solve Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) challenges, BlackSky’s strengths as a software-first space company emerge.

When adding strategic partners to the mix, BlackSky’s strengths become even more evident. We recently teamed up with Spire to create a first-of-its-kind real-time unclassified, commercial Maritime Custody Service (MCS). MCS is easy-to-use, autonomous, and predictive, meaning that insights arrive during live operations.


People, Passion, and Diversity – the winning combination for the intelligence community

BlackSky is a small yet mighty team of approximately 300 people. We accomplish great things with our focus on fostering passion and diversity.

During a panel on Cultivating STEM and GEOINT Talent in Underserved and Underrepresented Communities as a National Security Priority, NGA Deputy Director Tonya Wilkerson emphasized that intentionally investing energy and time into building the talent pipeline from all communities helps protect national security. She also addressed the topic from a technical talent angle, explaining that the U.S. is “losing the scientist race 9-1 against our adversaries overseas.”

Our CEO Brian O’Toole spoke to this topic during the Museum of History and Industry’s Innovation Exchange event in Seattle earlier this year. Growing a team that wakes up every day on fire for the mission in front of them is key to succeeding in this industry, and any other industry. That team is also better when it brings perspective to the table from across different cultural, ethnic, geographic, and professional backgrounds.


The rest of 2023 in two words: global momentum

Outside the U.S., international Ministries of Defense (MoDs) are experiencing the value of BlackSky’s dynamic monitoring capabilities. Earlier this year we won a $150 million competitive bid for which traditional image providers could not compete.

International customers seek long-term subscription-based contracts to secure a shared priority access to our current and future constellation, particularly in supply constraint, high demand regions. Government agencies worldwide are increasing space-based capabilities investments to meet near- and long-term national ISR needs in response to growing geopolitical, economic, and security tensions.

Many international MoDs have little to no traditional space architecture in place and can readily benefit from BlackSky’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) approach. Succeeding in a dynamic, modern operational environment requires BlackSky’s unique technical architecture and monitoring capabilities. Expect more perspective on these topics as we move forward into 2023.