KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Capella Space, a company that builds and operates synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites to image the Earth, developed a tool to automate the identification of vessels captured by satellite images.

David Hemphill, senior product manager at Capella Space, told SpaceNews May 6 at the GEOINT Symposium that the vessel classification data can be integrated with satellite-tasking software applications. “Users can request both SAR imagery and vessel classification analysis during the tasking process,” he said. 

The system also uses artificial intelligence for historical analysis, enabling classification on imagery within Capella’s archive. “Analysts can pinpoint locations of interest within SAR imagery and gain immediate insights into vessel types,” said Hemphill. “This can be used to track activity in ports, shipping lanes or other areas.” 

Capitalizing on the surging demand for maritime surveillance and maritime domain awareness, companies like Capella Space and others in the SAR imaging industry are rolling out products to give customers greater visibility into maritime activities.

Four SAR satellites

Headquartered in San Francisco, Capella Space operates four SAR satellites and is planning to launch more, said Hemphill. 

The vessel classification tool uses technology developed by the defense contractor EMSI, which specializes in using SAR data and AI to track moving maritime targets. 

Hemphill stressed that the vessel classification technology is about turning data into information. “You don’t necessarily have to be able to interpret SAR imagery in order to be able to do this vessel classification, which is opening up SAR to a broader audience.”

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...