HawkEye 360 operational picture (Source: HawkEye 360)

HawkEye 360 starts RF signal monitoring from satellites

Launched late last year, a trio of satellites is now conducting geolocation of radio frequency (RF) signals from low earth orbit (LEO). The HawkEye 360 pathfinders are able to independently pinpoint the location of a wide range of RF signals using a combination of unique formation flying and software defined radios (SDRs), with the company formally announcing the capability in a press announcement today.

“We are generating an entirely new data source for important commercial, defense, and intelligence applications around the world,” said HawkEye 360 Chief Executive Officer John Serafini. “As the first to be delivering this type of commercial data, HawkEye 360 will help our customers make more timely and precise decisions. Our team has shown unbelievable dedication and passion to reach a new milestone in space technology in just a few short years.”

HawkEye 360’s satellites were launched on the December 3, 2018 Spaceflight SSO-A mission, part of a rideshare package of 64 spacecraft.   The trio of satellites have demonstrated successful geolocation of signals on VHF Channels 16 and 70, EPIRP rescue beacon, and maritime AIS traffic as well as identifying marine radar signals.

The proprietary sourcing of the data enables HawkEye 360 to locate and analyze undetected activity, providing new information for maritime, emergency response, and spectrum analysis applications. In the maritime sector, HawkEye 360 can provide law enforcement insight on suspicious vessel behavior.  Search and rescue can get independent and more accurate geolocation of emergency beacons while spectrum analysis can conduct RF band surveys to spot interference issues and maximize use of spectrum.

HawkEye’s pathfinders are being used to perform data verification and “strategic demonstrations with select customers,” according to a company press release.  Operations will be used for tuning enhancements to the next generation of satellites currently under development for launch later this year.  The next satellites will include a wider RF signal range, on-board processing, and data capabilities as the company builds out a constellation of satellites to provide global coverage and frequent revisit time.

To date, HawkEye 360 has raised $28 million in venture money with investors including defense powerhouse Raytheon.  HawkEye plans to operate a constellation of 30 satellites with revisit times of 30 to 45 minutes.

Other companies talking up satellite RF monitoring include Kleos Space, Sky and Space Global, and UnseenLabs.  Kleos wants to operate a constellation of 20 satellites.  UnseenLabs was working on a 6U satellite while Sky and Space Global has tested RF monitoring tools with its “Diamonds” pathfinder trio.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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