Commercial small satellites startups were all the rage at the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) GEOINT Symposium in San Antonio, Texas this week, with HawkEye 360 announcing several partnerships merging its RF scanning data with imagery, BlackSky winning business with the National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO), and Kleos Space planning for an August launch date of four RF sensing satellites.
Virginia-based HawkEye 360 announced it is teaming with BlackSky to delivery products fusing its satellite-collected radio frequency (RF) data with BlackSky one meter imagery. HawkEye 360’s satellite constellation collects, identifies, processes, and geolocates a broad set of RF signals. BlackSky will have API access to HawkEye 360 data and be able to overlay it along with other data sources onto the imagery it collects.
HawkEye 360 is also working with geospatial intelligence firm Ursa, blending RF with Ursa’s multi-source synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data for maritime and land monitoring. With both Ursa and BlackSky, HawkEye 360 RF data can be used to identify areas of activity and then use overhead imagery to examine it.
BlackSky has been awarded a NRO study contract to provide commercial satellite imagery. NRO wants to use off-the-shelf commercial imagery and services to supplement its “bespoke” classified and very expensive satellites. BlackSky commissioned its first two satellites, Global-1 and Global-2, into commercial service this spring and plans to put up another 6 satellites into orbit by the end of the year, with a planned constellation of 60 satellites total.
Another RF monitoring startup, Kleos Space, discussed its plans to put four satellites into orbit on an August 2019 Rocket Lab flight. The “Scouting Mission” satellites are 6U in size and weight around 8 kilograms, according to Space News. Once deployed from a Rocket Lab Electron, they will fly in formation and provide daily worldwide scanning. Initial services built around the satellites include raw RF data which can be integrated into a larger geo-location capability, processed data with RF activity geo-tagged, and “bespoke” user defined data with more specific tailoring and post-processing.
Initial characteristics of data collected by the Kleos Space satellites includes geolocation of RF sources by latitude and longitude, with an accuracy between 200 meters to 3 kilometers depending on conditions, capturing sources between 50 kHz to 10 MHz, depending on conditions.