News Feature | August 2, 2016

HawkEye 360, Lockheed Martin To Launch First Commercial Space-Based RF Mapping, Analytics

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

On-Orbit Satellite RF Measurements

HawkEye 360 has announced that it is collaborating with Lockheed Martin and Deep Space Industries to build and deploy low-Earth orbit satellites for its pioneering space-based radio frequency (RF) detection and mapping service to commercial clients.

Launched last year by science and technology holdings firm Allied Minds, HawkEye 360 plans to launch small satellites to collect data and generate reports on wireless signals that can be used for maritime tracking, logistics monitoring of aircraft and ground transportation, and emergency response. It will be the first to offer space-based RF mapping and analytics commercially, using data processing technology originally developed at Virginia Tech's Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

Unlike the automatic identification system (AIS) that processes a limited number of collision avoidance signals utilized by commercial companies, HawkEye 360 will detect a wider range of frequencies to better map RF use and glean actionable intelligence.

“The differentiation between our service and that of a typical AIS collector is that we are going to be able to independently geolocate those signals,” HawkEye 360’s COO Chris DeMay told SIGNAL, the official publication of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). “We are going to be able to tell you if a vessel is turning off its AIS, or in the case of illegal fishing where there are a number of bad actors, we will know if they are spoofing their AIS.”

By mapping RF signals from space, HawkEye 360's network will yield detailed area maps of spectrum interference, or monitor congested shipping lanes, for example, according to the magazine.

“We can develop heat maps of signals to show how RF is used in a certain geographic region so we can mitigate interference or jamming signals,” DeMay told SIGNAL. “We are essentially putting dots on the map of emitters — so mapping out cellular tower networks, mapping out congestion in maritime situations for ships going through straits for commerce purposes or mapping the same ships to track for illegal fishing or other illicit maritime activity.”

HawkEye 360 plans to launch the first three satellites — the Pathfinder Cluster — during the second half of 2017, with a goal of six total clusters forming the whole satellite constellation to be deployed sometime in 2018 and 2019, said DeMay.

Lockheed Martin and spacecraft contractor Deep Space Industries will help HawkEye 360 develop and manufacture those satellites.

“Combining Lockheed Martin’s expertise in satellite systems with HawkEye 360’s approach to space-based radio frequency detection offers an innovative solution to some of the big challenges facing our shared customer base,” said Dave Markham, VP of Strategy for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in prepared remarks. “We look forward to working with HawkEye 360 to help advance this exciting technology.”

“To demonstrate the effectiveness of HawkEye 360’s radio frequency mapping, we will be delivering one of the most advanced small satellite constellations to date,” said Daniel Faber, CEO of Deep Space Industries, in a press release. “We expect that the data products produced by HawkEye 360 will provide extensive value to the communications, transportation, and data analysis markets, a business that demands an operationally robust satellite constellation.”

Lockheed Martin and HawkEye 360 say the new space-based RF detection and mapping technology could be applied across multiple customer segments and new markets beyond the transportation sector.