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A vibrant commercial space sector has captured the attention of senior U.S. intelligence officials seeking new ways to capitalize on the latest imaging and other technologies.

Space-based intelligence collection has long been a bastion of traditional government procurement—defined by unique, nonnegotiable requirements, close oversight and high costs—but a major theme at the Geoint 2016 Symposium in May was the recognition that new commercial practices can fill important niches in the tradecraft.

“There are certain unique . . . government-only functions that must be performed by the NTM [national technical means] system,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a keynote address. “At the same time, we can certainly depend on [and] use what is available commercially as a supplement for all kinds of reasons—for foundational purposes, as an enhancement for resiliency, reconstitution and all that.”

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