Article Entry

25 May 2011


Nanosatellites: The Next Generation of Spy Satellites, Inexpensive and Effective for Supporting the Warfighter

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General

It’s no secret that warfare has changed tremendously over the past decade. We are more reliant upon small bands of American soldiers who track down an elusive enemy in very precarious and isolated terrain, making our missions all the more challenging. Naturally, GEOINT plays a key role in helping the warfighter target and find the enemy. But as this new nature of warfare continues, the U.S. Army is adapting its use of spy satellites to better help the warfighter and reduce the danger associated with our efforts in remote areas of Afghanistan (as an example). The Army is aggressively moving towards launch swarms of tiny, inexpensive spy satellites – called nanosatellites — which will provide all the key intelligence data that warfighters need on the ground.

According to, the military already has an extensive system of reconnaissance satellites orbiting Earth. Most of them are large, expensive, highly capable craft developed by the Air Force, such as the recently launched $1.4 billion GEO-1 satellite. And despite the abilities of these advanced satellites, nanosatellites can help meet the need for more accurate and up-to-date information.

Here are a few quotes from John London, nanosatellite technology programs manager at the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), on this new effort:

“We think you can put an awful lot of capability in a very small package. We’re moving down that road as quickly as we can. These satellites are very small. They’re very hard to track and, more than likely, very hard to target.”

Our readers may recall our post about the Army developing a Multipurpose Nanomissile system — the smallest orbital launch vehicle — for the sole purpose of launching these nanosatellites. So, as we previously noted, small is the new big. There’s a new horizon in GEOINT and nanosatellites may be the ticket to enhancing support for the warfighter.

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