HawkEye 360’s satellites launch in December 2020 are significantly larger than their predecessors. They include updated processors and larger solar arrays to boost onboard power as the satellites perform multiple simultaneous signal collections. Credit: HawkEye 360

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded HawkEye 360 a $15.5 million contract to provide radio frequency analytics research and development, and to help the government test and evaluate its hybrid space intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture.

“This agreement is a tremendous opportunity for HawkEye 360 to showcase the whole spectrum of capability we offer the government as it develops its space architectures,” HawkEye 360 CEO John Serafini said in a statement. “We deliver value not only through the efficient tasking, collection and delivery of our RF data, which has never before been commercially available, but also through embedded operational support and enhanced analytics capabilities, deriving applicable insights for diverse end users. Ultimately, we hope to shape a pathway for further integration of valuable commercial capabilities into the government’s space architecture.”

Hawkeye 360 operates a constellation of nine satellites to detect, characterize and geolocate RF signals stemming from emitters like VHF marine radios, UHF push-to-talk radios, maritime and land-based radar systems, L-band satellite devices and emergency beacons.

HawkEye 360 has supported AFRL exercises in the past, but has never done so through a direct contract vehicle, according to a Jan. 11 HawkEye 360 announcement.

Under the new agreement, HawkEye 360 will support AFRL exercises in various ways, including providing personnel to support exercises, collecting data, and offering tools for data ingestion and analytics. The agreement covers HawkEye 360’s participation in military exercises to introduce new capabilities to the military personnel and to identify ways to improve and integrate the capabilities into military operations. For example, HawkEye 360 may support Rim of the Pacific 2022, an exercise scheduled to run from June to August in Hawaii that includes personnel from more than 20 nations.

The AFRL awarded the funding to HawkEye 360 through an Experimental Purpose Agreement (EPA), a type of contract designed for rapid procurement of goods or services needed for experimentation, technical evaluation and assessment of operational utility, according to the Defense Acquisition University website.

“The EPA contract vehicle is available for use by all Combatant Commands as they look to test and demonstrate innovative commercial RF data and analytics to include direct downlink to government ground stations,” according to the HawkEye 360 announcement.

Charlene Jacka, AFRL technical program manager, said in a statement, “The Department of Defense constantly seeks to identify, evaluate and recommend commercial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for integration into United States Air Force and United States Space Force workflows. We are pleased to have the opportunity to explore at greater scale and depth, using real-world scenarios, how a leading radio frequency data and analytics provider, such as HawkEye 360, can supplement and strengthen our hybrid satellite ISR architecture, and to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to enable further utility assessments.”

Alex Fox, HawkEye 360 executive vice president for global growth, said in a statement, “Our team is excited to be part of an AFRL program focused on developing and transitioning space capabilities for more effective and affordable warfighter missions. We share AFRL’s vision for a hybrid government and commercial ISR architecture to address growing global threats and to provide the warfighter with high-impact insights needed to support their mission.”

HawkEye 360 of Reston, Virginia, raised $145 million for its RF data reconnaissance business in November, and recently announced another $5 million for the Series D investment round from Leidos.

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...