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American firms have begun to operate their own imaging satellite systems, aiming to become an important part of the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry. To succeed over the long run, these new U.S. commercial remote sensing satellite firms need a combination of reliable technologies, government policies that encourage U.S. industry competitiveness, a strong international presence, and sound business plans to ensure their competitiveness in both the domestic and international marketplaces. The greatest risks for the these firms come from the challenge of transforming themselves from imagery data providers to strong competitors as information age companies; the need to master the technical risks of building and operating sophisticated imaging satellite systems; and the requirement to operate effectively in a complex international business environment. In addition, the government's policymaking process has yet to achieve the degree of predictability, timeliness, and transparency that the firms need if they are expected to operate effectively in a highly competitive and rapidly changing global marketplace. The authors conclude with six recommendations that the U.S. Department of Commerce should adopt to best fulfill its responsibilities for promoting the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry and for encouraging the competitiveness of new private imaging satellite firms.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's National Security Research Division.

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