Virginia-based HawkEye 360 plans to have 60 satellites–20 clusters of three satellites–on orbit by 2025, Alex Fox, the company’s chief growth officer, said this week.
The company said that the 20 clusters will have a global revisit rate of 12 to 20 minutes, as opposed to the 90 minutes now provided by the company’s five cluster constellation of 15 satellites.
HawkEye 360 plans to launch a cluster each quarter and to launch the next cluster aboard Rocket Lab USA‘s Electron rocket from Wallops Island, Va., in December, Fox said in a phone interview.
Last week, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) said that it has awarded HawkEye 360 and five other companies commercial radio frequency (RF) remote sensing contracts (Defense Daily, Sept. 28).
The other awardees are Denver’s Aurora Insight, Virginia-based Spire Global Inc. [SPIR], Luxembourg’s Kleos Space [KSS], Terran Orbital‘s [LLAP] Florida-based PredaSAR, and Santa Barbara, Calif.’s Umbra Lab.
NRO Director Chris Scolese said in a statement last week that “since the 2019 award of an integration study contract for commercial RF, we’ve seen increasing demand for this data source from across the user community.”
Fox said that HawkEye 360 began working with the NRO in 2019.
“We’ve proven out the importance and utility of RF intelligence, as it relates to supporting strategic and tactical missions,” he said.
While the NRO will continue to focus on developing “exquisite” capabilities for the most challenging missions, “a hybrid architecture is essential,” Fox said. “We can never have enough eyes and ears to provide the global persistence that’s needed.”
HawkEye 360 plans to integrate its satellites with DoD’s Joint All Domain Command and Control architecture.
Scolese said last week that NRO continues “to work with our partners in government and the commercial sector to find new ways to build capability, agility, capacity, speed, and resilience into everything we do.”
The NRO’s commercial RF awards last week are part of NRO’s Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) framework put in place last year with contract awards in January to five companies for commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery–Capella Space, Airbus Group’s U.S. division, the U.S. division of Finland’s ICEYE, PredaSAR and Umbra Lab (Defense Daily, Apr. 26).
Under NRO’s previous commercial RF contract with HawkEye 360, the agency has been using the company’s satellites to respond to the Ukraine crisis and to help determine how commercial RF satellites could aid next-generation signals intelligence.
HawkEye 360 said last week that, under the new commercial RF contract that may last three years, the company “will initially model and simulate current and future RF-sensing capabilities, engage in live end-to-end demonstrations, conduct accuracy and quality assessments, and demonstrate overhead delivery of RF data to government fixed, transportable, and mobile ground stations around the world.”
“Under the contract, the customer will assess current and future capabilities and explore establishing a multi-year service level agreement to support the NRO’s evolving mission requirements,” HawkEye 360 said.
The U.S. intelligence community, which has contracts with commercial satellite imagery providers, has been providing imagery from these companies to Ukraine to help the nation defeat the Russian assault, which began on Feb. 24 (Defense Daily, Aug. 18). Before Russia’s unprovoked war, the U.S. government worked with commercial satellite companies to highlight Russia’s intentions to invade Ukraine and make it difficult for Russia to create any false pretexts to justify its invasion.
Less than two weeks after Russia’s February onslaught, HawkEye 360 said that its analysts had found increased GPS interference in the region since last winter (Defense Daily, March 21, 2021).
“When HawkEye 360 analysts examined Ukraine over the past four months, they discovered continued and increased GPS interference across the region,” Hawkeye360 said on March 4 last year. “The data showed extensive GPS interference in November 2021 along the boundary of the pro-Russian separatist-controlled regions in Luhansk and Donetsk. Open-source information confirmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operating in the area were disrupted due to lost GPS connections.”
In addition, “HawkEye 360 detected GPS interference along the border between Ukraine and Belarus, shortly before the Russian invasion started,” the company said. “This February activity occurred just north of Chernobyl, within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, demonstrating the integration of electronic warfare tactics into Russian military operation to further degrade Ukraine’s ability for self-defense.”