DIRECT TO PHASE II - Observation Cone Enhancements for Low-earth Orbit Satellites

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-D09
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-D09 TITLE: DIRECT TO PHASE II – Observation Cone Enhancements for Low-earth Orbit Satellites

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Technology;Trusted AI and Autonomy

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a capability that improves coverage gaps of Areas of Interest (AOIs) of existing and future naval conflict.

DESCRIPTION: Current Field of Regard (FOR) limits the taskability for commercial assets to ±30° due to the spatial resolution on the extreme slants. The Navy seeks software development incorporating georectification techniques for commercial Low-earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that allow improved taskability of these sensors to support Naval missions, providing more tactically relevant information to the warfighter. This capability does not currently exist.

High revisit rates of remote sensing imagery are of high importance to the Navy. One of the factors that determine this revisit rate is the extent off-nadir that imagery satellites can make collections. Existing remote sensing imagery collects for commercial LEO satellites are limited to the satellite observation cone available due to the spatial resolution at boundaries (i.e., the off-nadir limitations). Though there is variation among commercial systems, the Navy observes typical off-nadir extents for commercial LEO satellites at approximately ±30°. By increasing the revisit rates to multiple revisits per day information characterizing rapid change or unusual activity can be captured. This information allows the warfighter to make critical decisions and resource allocation. Large off-nadir collections (> ±30°) offer the possibility to increase these revisit rates at the risk of lower fidelity images. The capability must demonstrate trading performance on the National Image Interpretability Rating Scale (NIIRS for Electro-Optical, also Radar NIIRS or RNIIRS for Synthetic Aperture Radar) for increased area coverage improves tactical relevance while still achieving data fidelity requirements for maritime applications. The solution will require a demonstration of increased FOR in a test environment where ground software is able to georectify beyond the baseline observation cone. Desired performance is = 1 km georectification for extended range over open ocean and = 5 m ground resolution.

The Navy recognizes that space vehicle and payload design constraints as well as data processing algorithms may impede off-nadir experimentation. In addition to spatial resolution on Earth’s surface, one key AOI is geolocation accuracy. Geolocation refers to the ability to accurately locate an image on a coordinate system. It consists of 3 major parts: (i) position, velocity, and pointing data from the satellite to coarsely locate the image; (ii) georectification to take the image and match it to landmarks and identifiable features; and (iii) orthorectification to remove sensor, terrain, atmospheric, and terrain related geometric distortions. By enhancing satellite data, orthorectification, and georectification algorithms, the observation cone can be increased allowing for a wider FOR with validated accuracy.

Software development to increase the extent of off-nadir collections and positional accuracy of the AOI can increase the taskability and revisit rate of commercial assets to support DoD missions. LEO satellites take between 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete one orbit and are only communicating with a ground station for 5 - 10 minutes at a time. An increased FOR delivers more tactically relevant data to the warfighter during ground station communication. This software should be able to georectify the data over open ocean when observing the earth at extreme slant angles.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: For a Direct to Phase II topic, the Government expects that the small business would have accomplished the following in a Phase I-type effort and developed a concept for a workable prototype or design to address, at a minimum, the basic requirements of the stated objective above. The below actions would be required in order to satisfy the requirements of Phase I:

• Develop a concept to significantly increase the off-nadir collection capability of commercial LEO high-resolution imaging satellites over open ocean within existing baseline operating limits. Submitting small business concerns must provide current off-nadir collection capabilities as the baseline.

• Demonstrate the key attributes of the concept feasibility to meet the Navy needs. Key attributes include but are not limited to the capability to collect imagery at angles significantly greater than ±30° off-nadir, successful georectify and orthorectify the image, and determine its geolocation accuracy.

• Feasibility must be demonstrated through modeling and analysis.

FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Offerors interested in participating in Direct to Phase II must include in their response to this topic:

Phase I feasibility documentation that substantiates the scientific and technical merit and Phase I feasibility described in Phase I above has been met (i.e., the small business must have performed Phase I-type research and development related to the topic NOT solely based on work performed under prior or ongoing federally funded SBIR/STTR work) and describe the potential commercialization applications. The documentation provided must validate that the proposer has completed development of technology as stated in Phase I above. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Work submitted within the feasibility documentation must have been substantially performed by the offeror and/or the principal investigator (PI). Read and follow all of the DON SBIR 23.2 Direct to Phase II Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Instructions. Phase I proposals will NOT be accepted for this topic.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype of the software and demonstrate an increased observation cone for commercial LEO satellites from concept development in Phase I. The prototype will be evaluated in operationally relevant exercises to determine the capability in meeting performance goals defined in the description and the Navy requirements.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for use in wartime environment. Develop software for commercial LEO satellites for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in increasing taskability options of these satellites. Support the Navy for testing and validation of software in MTC-A/X to certify and qualify the capability for Navy use.

Improved revisit rates using off-nadir imagery collection with accurate geolocation would benefit multiple commercial and civil applications such as providing relief during natural disasters and locating assets in a mishap at sea.


  1. G. M. Kumari, T. Radhika, R. V. G. Anjaneyulu, C. Venkateswara Rao and V. M. Bothale, "Off-nadir viewing effects in High resolution Data," 2019 IEEE Recent Advances in Geoscience and Remote Sensing : Technologies, Standards and Applications (TENGARSS), 2019, pp. 123-127, doi: 10.1109/TENGARSS48957.2019.8976056.
  2. Weir, Nick. "Challenges with SpaceNet 4 off-nadir satellite imagery: Look angle and target azimuth angle", Medium, 9-Nov 2018.
  3. News Desk, "BlackSky achieves world’s highest revisit, time-diverse dawn-to-dusk satellite constellation with three successful launches in three weeks", Geospatial World, 14-Dec 2021.

KEYWORDS: Satellite Observation Cone; Field of Regard; observation at extreme slant angles; off-Nadir; Georectify; Low-Earth Orbit; National Image Interpretability Rating Scale.


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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Topic Q & A

5/8/23  Q. This topic reads as being specifically targeted at the low earth orbit (LEO) imaging satellite companies to get them to support collections at off nadir angles greater than 30 degrees and produce orthorectified imagery for those collections, as only they have the ability to open up their collection geometry limits. Is this interpretation correct? If not, is a proposal that assumes collections with off nadir angles greater than 30 degrees are available and addresses improving georectification and orthorectification accuracies to the maximum extent possible based on the supplied image metadata acceptable?
   A. The intent is to enhance existing observation capabilities. The sponsoring program office does not expect to fund or field additional LEO capability. The SBIR topic asks for a demonstration of the enhanced capability, as well as desired performance metrics, with the sensor proposed by the vendor. It is up to the proposal to address the acquisition of the sensor data given the flexibility of which sensor or phenomenology is being addressed.

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