Future Imagery Architecture

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USA-215, believed to be the first operational payload resulting from the FIA program, crosses Cassiopeia

Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) was a program to design a new generation of optical and radar imaging US reconnaissance satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). In 2005 NRO director Donald Kerr recommended the project's termination, and the optical component of the program was finally cancelled in September 2005 by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. FIA has been called by The New York Times "perhaps the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects."[1] Despite the optical component's cancellation, the radar component, known as Topaz, has continued, with three satellites in orbit as of December 2013.

History[edit]

Launch of USA-215

In 1999 the development contract for FIA was awarded to a Boeing team, which underbid Lockheed Martin's competing proposal by about US$ 1 billion (inflation adjusted US$ 1.42 billion in 2014).[2][3] By 2005, an estimated US$ 10 billion had been spent by the US government on FIA, including Boeing's accumulated cost overrun of US$ 4 to 5 billion,[4] and it was estimated to have an accumulated cost of US$25 billion over the ensuing twenty years.[5] In September 2005 the contract for the electro-optical satellites was shifted to Lockheed Martin because of the cost overruns and delays of the delivery date.[6] Lockheed was asked to restart production of KH-11 satellite system with new upgrades.[1] The contract for the imaging radar satellite remained with Boeing.[1] In September 2010 NRO director Bruce Carlson stated that while most NRO "(...) programs are operating on schedule and on cost (...)", one program is "(...) 700 percent over in schedule and 300 percent over in budget".[7]

The exact scope and mission of FIA are classified, although the head of the NRO said in 2001 that the project would focus on creating smaller and lighter satellites.[8] Some industry experts believe that a key objective is to make the satellites more difficult to attack, possibly by placing them in higher orbits. Because of the large size of the program, as well as number of workers involved, some experts have compared it to the 1940s Manhattan Project.[8]

In 2012 NRO donated two sophisticated but unneeded space telescopes, reportedly built for FIA, to NASA for use in astronomy.[9]

Launches[edit]

The first operational FIA Radar satellite, USA-215 or NROL-41,[10] was launched on 21 September 2010. It is in a retrograde 1100 x 1105 km orbit inclined by 123 degrees,[11] an orbital configuration indicating it is a SAR satellite.[10] On 3 April 2012, a second satellite, USA-234 or NROL-25, was launched into a similar orbit.

The earlier USA-193 satellite, launched in 2006, is believed to have been a technology demonstration satellite intended to test and develop systems for the FIA radar programme.[12] However, it failed immediately after launch, and was subsequently destroyed by a missile.

Spacecraft[edit]

Name COSPAR ID
SATCAT №
Launch date
(UTC)
Launch vehicle Launch site Launch designation Orbit Decay date Remarks
USA-215 2010-046A
37162
21 September 2010
04:03:30
Atlas V 501 VAFB SLC-3E NROL-41 1,102 km x 1,105 km x 123° in orbit
USA-234 2012-014A
38109
3 April 2012
23:12:57
Delta IV-M+(5,2) VAFB SLC-6 NROL-25 ~1,100 km x ~1,100 km x 123° in orbit
USA-247 2013-072A
39462
6 December 2013
07:14:30
Atlas V 501 VAFB SLC-3E NROL-39 TBD in orbit
TBD TBD
TBD
TBD Atlas V 501 VAFB SLC-3E NROL-45 TBD awaiting launch
TBD TBD
TBD
TBD Delta IV-M+(5,2) VAFB SLC-6 TBD TBD awaiting launch

Successor program[edit]

USA-224, launched on 20 January 2011, is believed to be the first of the large post-FIA optical reconnaissance satellites built by Lockheed.[13][not in citation given]

The failed FIA program is to be succeeded by the Next Generation Electro-Optical (NGEO) program. NGEO is intended as a lower-risk modular system, which is capable of being modified incrementally over its lifetime.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Philip Taubman (November 11, 2007). "In Death of Spy Satellite Program, Lofty Plans and Unrealistic Bids". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  2. ^ Boeing's press release on winning the contract
  3. ^ "Future Imagery Architecture [FIA] - Phase C". Global Security. 
  4. ^ "Future Imagery Architecture [FIA] - 2005 Restructuring". Global Security. 
  5. ^ Pae, Peter. "Massive Spy-Satellite Program to Cost Billions", LA Times, March 18, 2001. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  6. ^ Charles P. Vick. "Future Imagery Architecture". globalsecurity.org. 
  7. ^ Bruce Carlson (2010-09-13). "National Reconnaissance Office Update". Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  8. ^ a b Sullivan, Laura. "A peek into secrets most jealously guarded", Baltimore Sun, September 8, 2001. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  9. ^ Ferster, Warren (2012-06-08). "Donated Space Telescopes are Remnants of Failed NRO Program". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  10. ^ a b http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Sep-2010/0279.html
  11. ^ http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Oct-2010/0168.html
  12. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/library/report/2008/080128-fia-vick.htm
  13. ^ http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Jan-2011/0173.html
  14. ^ Dr. Bruce Berkowitz (September 2011). "The National Reconnaissance Office At 50 Years: A Brief History". Center for the Study of National Reconnaissance. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 

External links[edit]