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HawkEye 360 taps UTAIS Space Flight Laboratory to build satellites

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 30, 2019

An artist's impression of HawkEye 360’s next-generation satellites in orbit. (HawkEye 360 & UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory)
An artist’s impression of HawkEye 360’s next-generation satellites in orbit. (HawkEye 360 & UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory)

United States radio frequency data analytics company HawkEye 360 has awarded the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) a contract to manufacture the company’s next generation of satellites.

The UTAIS’ Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) will manufacture the satellite bus and integrate the new RF payload, HawkEye 360 said in a statement on September 18.

HawkEye 360 is the first commercial company to use formation flying satellites to identify, process, and geolocate a broad set of radio frequency signals.

Further, using proprietary algorithms to fuse multiple data sources, the company was providing commercial solutions to what was traditionally the preserve of a select group of government agencies.

HawkEye 360 said the next generation of satellites could geolocate more signals, increase revisit rate, reduce latency, and boost capacity to meet the growing demand.


“After proving the value and accuracy of our first satellites and securing the Series B investment, we are now quickly scaling our business to support customer demand,” HawkEye 360 chief executive John Serafini said in the statement.

“These next-generation satellites will improve our capabilities and expand our constellation for faster revisit rates, which translates into better insights for a safer world across maritime, air, and land domains.”

HawkEye founder and chief technology officer Chris DeMay said UTIAS’ SFL was selected for both its expertise and flight heritage.

“Their innovative work designing our current satellites met all technical objectives, including reliably conducting formation flying manoeuvres,” DeMay said. “Now, SFL will help us bring this next stage of the constellation to completion.”

HawkEye 360 raised US$70 million in August 2019, which would allow the company to expand from three to 18 satellites, thereby achieving routine revisits of less than an hour for increased global persistence.

The global demand for more powerful analytical products is accelerating to provide increased maritime domain awareness and spectrum mapping and monitoring, with opportunities now opening for commercial entities with the financial backing of venture capital and a growing number of international customers.

The improvement to maritime domain awareness in the region would be made through the delivery of a geospatial data layer not previously available commercially, which is the precise mapping of radio frequency emissions.

This data source feeds radio frequency analytics to reveal patterns of activity and provide new insights, with vessel location now being determined from X-band navigation radars or VHF maritime radios, among others, rather than relying on self-reported beacons such as AIS.

The HawkEye 360 announcement had potentially significant consequences for Australia and its security in the broader Indo-Pacific region.

As Australia developed its own space industry, announcements such as these pointed to the wide range of opportunities beyond the manufacture of platforms and payloads, with integration, analytics, automation and the establishment of a ground station architecture being key enablers for enhanced maritime domain and global spectrum awareness.

Moreover, the collection of sophisticated radio frequency data and the subsequent analytics outside of arrangements such as the Five Eyes security relationship means data can potentially be shared with other partners in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in relation to non-core military roles such as humanitarian aid and disaster response (HADR) and anti-piracy operations, when the rapid demand for situational awareness outstrips the supply of surveillance and intelligence capabilities.

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