This image shows early test results for Hawkeye 360's independent geolocation of land-based reference signals. Displays of unprocessed results of multiple signal datasets are on the left. Correlated data revealing the geolocation of all three test emitters are on the right. Credit: HawkEye 360

SAN FRANCISCO – Hawkeye 360 announced Feb. 26 it can pinpoint the location of radio frequency signals with its first three satellites launched in December on the SpaceX rideshare mission.

“It took us about two months to do all the commissioning and testing but we are very excited to announce the satellites are working very well,” John Serafini, Hawkeye 360 chief executive, told SpaceNews. “They are now in commercial service providing data to our customers.”

Hawkeye 360 has attracted defense, intelligence and commercial customers since the startup formed in Herndon, Virginia, in October 2015. In a little over three years, the company moved from initial financing to spaceflight operations, Serafini noted.

One unique aspect of Hawkeye 360’s business model is formation flying. The company operates three satellites, spaced 100 to 200 kilometers apart.

“That unique geometry allows us to geolocate the signals,” Serafini said. “To our knowledge, we are the first commercial company to fly satellites in formation with software-defined radios to detect, analyze and geolocate RF activity.”

In early testing of its three Pathfinder satellites in orbit, Hawkeye demonstrated it can geolocate a variety of sources including VHF Channels 16 and 70, Emergency Position-Indicating Radiobeacons, Automatic Identification System for ship tracking and marine radar signals. Hawkeye then analyzes the signals to provide “insights for maritime, emergency response, and spectrum analysis applications,” according to the company’s Feb. 26 press release.

Because Hawkeye 360 can determine the source of the signal, the company does not have to trust whatever coordinates are announced. “In fact, this means if a ship claims a particular location, we can verify if that claim is true or false,” Adam Bennett, Hawkeye 360 product marketing manager, said by email.

To date, Hawkeye 360 has raised more than $28 million from investors including Raytheon, Allied Minds, Space Angels, Razor’s Edge Ventures, Shield Capital Partners and Sumitomo Corp. of Japan.

Will the on-orbit demonstration attract new Hawkeye 360 customers and investors? “We’re certainly engaged with both and excited to bring this commercial offering to the market,” Serafini said.

Hawkeye 360 is developing its second three-satellite cluster which it plans to launch in late 2019 or early 2020. The company has not announced a launch provider. The second satellite cluster is fully financed, Serafini said.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...