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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Integrated Overhead SIGINT Architecture [IOSA]

The NRO is developing the collection architectures of the future that will ensure US Information Superiority as called for in Joint Vision 2010. In the area of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), NRO is introducing an Integrated Overhead SIGINT Architecture (IOSA) that will improve SIGINT performance and avoid costs by consolidating systems, utilizing medium lift launch vehicles wherever possible, and using new satellite and data processing technologies. At the urging of Congress, NRO has initiated the study phase for the follow-on architecture, IOSA-2. These systems are intended to be increasingly responsive to operational needs and the military is an integral partner and participant in NRO space missions. As the NRO begins this revolutionary research and development (R&D) program and new acquisition efforts for SIGINT, military partners are helping shape the next generation of satellites.

IOSA-2 studies focused on whether a a new space-based SIGINT architecture could significantly improve collection from space of the numbers and types of signals expected to be critical to military and intelligence users in 2010 and beyond. Plans for IOSA-2 called for a move away from large [5-ton or heavier] spacecraft in favor of a larger number of smaller spacecraft. While the NRO anticipated retaining at least a few large SIGINT satellites, much of the collection effort was going to be offloaded to smaller satellites. In late 2000 the NRO and NSA decided not to invest in a new generation of SIGINT satellites, and instead continue with the current spacecraft configurations. The SIGINT community will consequently continue to operate within the bounds of the current Integrated Overhead Sigint Architecture (IOSA-1). Continuation of IOSA-1 benefits Boeing, which bought the Hughes' satellite manufacturing business where most SIGINT spacecraft are built. Moving to a new IOSA-2 architecture could have allowed another company to compete in this market.

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Monday, October 23, 2000 6:22:36 AM