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Defense analysts, including the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson, say about a half-dozen imagery satellite programs are believed to be in operation or under development.
The Future Imagery Architecture is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and is at least $4 billion to $5 billion over budget now. Experts believe the classified program will be a group of relatively light satellites that could cover the world with greater frequency than did earlier programs.
The program also is intended to pull together imagery from classified spy satellites, commercial satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles into one network for U.S. agencies to draw on.
In this system, one type of satellite would use radar and could collect images through clouds. Boeing is going to keep that work and remain the lead contractor for the overall program.
But the company lost the contract on a more complicated satellite that would take more precise pictures with visible-light or infrared cameras. At Negroponte's direction, the National Reconnaissance Office is negotiating with Lockheed, which will start fresh on its own design.