The Space Systems Command’s Space Domain Awareness (SDA) Tools Applications and Processing (TAP) Lab collaborated with commercial and academic partners to achieve mission success for Apollo Accelerator Cohort 2 on March 4, 2024. Credit: Space Systems Command

WASHINGTON — Wallaroo.AI, a company that helps businesses deploy machine learning models, is setting its sights on the military market. The New York-based startup has been selected to participate in the U.S. Space Force’s TAP (Tools, Applications & Processing) Lab accelerator program in Colorado Springs. The accelerator is focused on the use of commercial technologies for space domain awareness, a capability sought by the U.S. military as threats in the space domain heighten.

As part of the program’s third cohort, Wallaroo will prototype an AI platform to help Space Force teams quickly operationalize their machine learning models using unclassified data.

“A government data scientist doesn’t need to be an infrastructure specialist or an ML engineer. They simply need to create their model and choose where to deploy it,” Stephen Spellicy, Wallaroo’s chief operating officer, told SpaceNews

Automating decision-making

Jim Cunningham, Wallaroo’s DoD business development lead, explained the company’s role is “providing the AI infrastructure so machine learning can create automated decision chains” — from threat detection to commander response.

“When you start taking models from prototyping to production, the scaling and complexity increases as you deploy more models,” Cunningham said, highlighting a key challenge Wallaroo aims to solve.

During the program, Wallaroo will focus on object detection, like identifying deceptive spacecraft behavior, and launch warnings using data like seismic signatures. The company is also exploring deploying AI models directly on satellites, enabling real-time analysis instead of beaming data to ground stations.

Using commercial data

Spellicy noted the TAP Lab’s use of unclassified data creates a valuable “showcase” for companies seeking defense contracts, allowing Space Force to evaluate available technologies leveraging open sources like commercial satellite imagery.

“AI at the edge is really something the Space Force is super interested in,” said Cunningham, citing reduced latency and faster insights as key advantages over traditional ground processing.

Wallaroo’s software can be uploaded to satellites from the ground, optimized to run on various hardware through ongoing R&D efforts funded by a Space Force Small Business Innovation Research contract.

The TAP Lab cohort, which includes several other commercial technology companies, will demonstrate its prototypes in late July.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...