ORLANDO, Fla. — Quasar Satellite Technologies — a startup that tracks radio-frequency signals emitted by satellites and analyzes the radio chatter to draw insights — is setting sights on the U.S. defense and intelligence market. 

Phil Ridley, founder and CEO, said the company developed a portable digital phased array antenna that can monitor the RF transmissions of dozens of satellites at a time. 

The technology, currently used by Australia’s military and intelligence agencies, is being offered to the U.S. government, Ridley said in an interview at the Space Force Association’s Spacepower conference.

Ridley announced at the conference that the company will be opening a U.S. office in 2024 to market this technology. 

Spun off from CSIRO

Quasar was formed in 2021 as a commercial spinoff of Australia’s national science agency CSIRO. The company repurposed advanced technology developed over the past decade for radio astronomy to help solve challenges such as space congestion and space domain awareness, or the understanding of spacefaring objects. Radio astronomy is the study of celestial objects by capturing their radio emissions.

Intelligence derived from RF activities can provide valuable insights not available from more commonly used sensors like radar and telescopes, Ridley said. 

As space becomes increasingly congested and contested, accurate real-time tracking and characterization of both friendly and potentially hostile space assets has become critical for military and intelligence agencies. He said existing technologies have struggled with coverage gaps.

As it courts DoD and intelligence customers, Quasar also is raising venture capital in a Series A funding round. 

The Quasar phased array antenna, Ridley explained, can detect RF signals in low, medium and geostationary orbits. “We can take snapshots of the sky, many times a second like a digital camera, but for radio waves.”

Ridley said it took two and a half years to build the first antenna but they can now be manufactured one every few months.

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...