National Reconnaissance Office Terminates Radar Contract with Terran Orbital’s Former Entity PredaSAR
On October 2, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) disclosed the cessation of a commercial radar contract with Terran Orbital, previously known as PredaSAR, following the latter’s failure to fulfill Stage 2 requirements. The decision to end the contract was officially made in August after PredaSAR failed to deploy a commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit, a key deliverable for the progression of the partnership under the NRO’s strategic enhancement program.
In a broader initiative to integrate commercial radar capabilities into national reconnaissance, the NRO had initially awarded contracts to five entities in January of the previous year. These contracts, distributed among Airbus’ U.S. division, Capella Space, Iceye’s U.S. division, PredaSAR, and Umbra Lab, were framed within the NRO’s Strategic Commercial Enhancements Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).
Despite these developments, Terran Orbital underwent a strategic pivot in October 2022. The company transitioned from its commercial role in selling PredaSAR’s data, opting instead to focus on satellite manufacturing without managing a satellite constellation.
Marc Bell, CEO of Terran Orbital, indicated that the Department of Defense and intelligence community sectors have adopted the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) panels initially intended for PredaSAR’s demonstration satellites, which have since been repurposed following the contract’s termination. Bell pointed out the challenges in the commercial SAR sector, citing the lack of profitability as a significant hurdle for those attempting to enter the market.
Additionally, the NRO continues to explore the potential of commercial radio frequency (RF) remote sensing technology, having granted study contracts to several companies, including Terran Orbital, in September of the previous year. The NRO confirmed its ongoing RF study contract with Terran Orbital, signaling continued interest in leveraging commercial technologies for reconnaissance purposes.