The Pentagon has signed an exclusive contract with Lockheed Martin subsidiary Space Imaging for all imagery of Afghanistan taken by the Ikonos commercial remote sensing satellite. The deal is designed to ensure that images cannot be obtained by third parties.

The images, which can cost up to $3,000 a time, are providing damage assessment data with a resolution of about 1m (3ft), while classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellites have resolutions approaching 100mm (4in).

The French Government, meanwhile, has forbidden Spot Image to sell any commercial imagery of Afghanistan, becoming the only customer for the 10m resolution images.

Russia's only operating photo reconnaissance satellite, Cosmos 2377, which was launched in May, returned its main descent module to Earth on 10 October after a flight of 133 days. Cosmos 2377 was a Yantar-4K2 Kobalt spacecraft, with a main descent capsule and two small film-return capsules. Russia now has no imaging satellites in orbit, according to the UK's Molniya space consultancy.

Source: Flight International