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Commerce to Impose Rapid Revisit Restrictions on High-Res Satellite Constellations

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The Department of Commerce will impose time limits on the imaging operations of constellations of U.S. commercial remote sensing satellites that have the ability to capture repeat images of a terrestrial location in response to national security concerns raised by the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Breaking Defense reported Friday.

DOD and the IC are concerned that imagery captured by satellite constellations called Rapid Revisit Imaging Systems will disclose changes in activity patterns at key national security facilities.

The Commerce Department plans to implement the new restrictions under the commercial remote sensing licensing process that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversees. The new rules will apply to areas on the Persistent Imaging Location List.

NOAA’s commercial remote sensing regulatory affairs office will implement the rules through a three-tiered licensing scheme and Rapid Revisit Imaging Systems will be categorized under Tier 3. Under this tier, CRSRA can impose “temporary” limits on the sale of all cutting-edge commercial capabilities at the request of the Pentagon and intelligence agencies.

Officials from the remote sensing industry have raised concerns over the rapid revisit restrictions saying NOAA’s ruling will hamper the ability of U.S. companies to secure an edge in the global real-time imagery market.

“These restrictions would severely hurt commercial companies’ ability to operate high resolution constellations and is counter to the efforts of the past two years to make NOAA regs streamlined and enable US companies to compete internationally,” an industry representative told the publication in an email.

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