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Satellite-Imagery Firms Maxar, Planet and BlackSky Awarded Billions of Dollars in Government Contracts

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  • The NRO on Wednesday announced contracts worth billions of dollars over the next decade to a trio of satellite-imagery companies: Maxar, Planet and BlackSky.
  • The U.S. intelligence agency touted the contracts as "a historic expansion" of its acquisition strategy,
  • The NRO award comes under its Electro-Optical Commercial Layer program, which the agency says will support over 500,000 federal users over the next decade.

The National Reconnaissance Office on Wednesday announced contracts worth billions of dollars over the next decade to a trio of satellite-imagery companies: Maxar, Planet and BlackSky.

Maxar, in a securities filing, said its 10-year EOCL contract is worth up to $3.24 billion, with a five-year base contract of $1.5 billion and optional contracts worth up to $1.74 billion. BlackSky's contract is valued at up to $1.02 billion over 10 years, the company disclosed in a filing. Planet did not release the value of its NRO award on Wednesday, with a company spokesperson telling CNBC the delay is "because we remain in a quiet period," with an update to come in the future.

NRO touted the contracts as "a historic expansion" of its acquisition strategy, noting the increasing availability of commercial companies' imagery "increases our resilience and enables an integrated approach" to national security. The NRO is the U.S. agency that manages a wide breadth of satellite-intelligence capabilities, including operating its own classified satellites.

BlackSky stock soared 97% in trading to close at $2.33 a share, while Planet's rose 14% to close at $5.73 a share, and Maxar's climbed 18% to close at $28.86 a share.

An image from one of the company's satellites shows Lower Manhattan in New York City.
Planet
An image from one of the company's satellites shows Lower Manhattan in New York City.

The NRO award comes under its Electro-Optical Commercial Layer, or EOCL, program, which the intelligence agency says will support over 500,000 federal users over the next decade.

The EOCL deal has been long-awaited, with Maxar previously serving as the NRO's sole provider of commercially acquired satellite imagery. While Maxar may be losing a lucrative monopoly, Wall Street analysts do not expect the new competition to hurt the company, given the growth in total addressable market for satellite imagery.

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