US eyeing new spy satellite program

The US is pursuing a multibillion-dollar program to develop the next generation of spy satellites, the first major effort of its kind since the Pentagon canceled the ambitious and costly Future Imagery Architecture system two years ago, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the new system, known as BASIC, would be launched by 2011 and is expected to cost $2 billion to $4 billion, according to US officials familiar with the program. They discussed details on condition of anonymity because the information is classified.

The report said the new start comes as many US officials, lawmakers and defense experts question the high costs of satellite programs, particularly after the demise of the previous program that wasted time and money.

The National Reconnaissance Office spent six years and billions of dollars on Future Imagery Architecture, or FIA, before deciding in September 2005 to scrap a major component of the program, the report added.

The Pentagon is conducting a study to determine what satellite capabilities are feasible. The analysis will be completed by the end of the year, the Associated Press report further said.