BlackSky Technology [BKSY] said on Oct. 16 that it has won a Space Development Agency contract through the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s AFWERX innovation arm to help track forces on the move through automated target recognition (ATR).

The ATR is to integrate radio frequency and electro-optical satellite sensor data “to track mobile assets in real-time and securely distribute actionable intelligence to remote devices and analysts worldwide,” BlackSky said.

The announcement comes as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) pursues a Space Based Radar for ground moving target indication with the U.S. Space Force, and as the NRO has undertaken in the last two years a commercial Broad Agency Announcement strategic framework

for electro-optical and radar imagery, radio frequency data, and hyperspectral imagery to help the agency focus the use of its “exquisite” systems (Defense Daily, Oct. 12).

“BlackSky has a proven ability to track moving targets on-orbit using its proprietary electro-optical high-resolution satellite constellation,” the company said on Oct. 16. “Unlike traditional moving target indicators that rely exclusively on radar sensors, the BlackSky Spectra platform uses multi-frame Burst imagery and computer vision to fuse open-source intelligence feeds with multi-sensor imagery to provide information and intelligence on critical targets of interest.”

Patrick O’Neil, BlackSky’s chief technology officer, said in the company Oct. 16 statement that the company is leveraging advances in artificial intelligence and edge processing “to advance the DoD’s real-time imagery and analytics delivery requirements” and that Black Sky “will take advantage of our existing commercial ground and space architectures that enable assured secure tasking, collection, and low-latency data delivery to make mobile asset monitoring possible at scale.”

While the NRO’s primary users have been the White House, high DoD officials, and the intelligence community, including the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Security Agency, the NRO has said that it wants to provide for the needs of combatant commanders and U.S. military forces in the field. How that shapes up on the rapid timelines required for fielded forces and whether U.S. Space Command functions as a go-between for such provision are open questions.

Ukraine has used SpaceX Starlink satellites for communications and commercial electro-optical data from BlackSky and Planet Labs PBC [PL] satellites. In addition, Maxar Technologies has received contracts under the NGA Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery program to integrate synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from Capella SpaceICEYE, and Umbra. NGA has provided unclassified access of the integrated SAR data to aid the Ukrainian effort to repel the Russian assault, which began on Feb. 24 last year.