Aurora Insight created a map of African RF transmissions in the 2620 to 2690 megahertz band with Alpha, a technology demonstration satellite launched in December 2018. Red indicates the highest signal power levels. Purple indicates little or no signal power detected by the satellite sensor. Credit: Aurora Insight

WASHINGTON — HawkEye 360 and Maxar Technologies have been awarded contract extensions by the National Reconnaissance Office for commercial radio-frequency (RF) data.

The NRO also awarded similar contracts to Kleos Space and Spire Global. All four companies last year were selected for cooperative agreements that give the NRO access to their business operations and help the agency understand the quality of commercially available data. 

RF signals monitoring from space is an emerging sector of the remote sensing industry that uses low-orbiting satellites to track ships, vehicles, electronic jammers or any devices that emit radio frequency signals. 

HawkEye 360 and Maxar’s Aurora Insight were awarded “stage two” two-year contract options under the NRO’s  Strategic Commercial Enhancements Broad Agency Announcement program.

The NRO builds and operates surveillance and reconnaissance satellites for the U.S. government and in recent years has expanded its agreements with private companies in an effort to leverage commercial investments in remote sensing. 

HawkEye 360, based in Herndon, Virginia, is a geospatial analytics company that operates satellites that collect radio frequency signal location data.

The company said in a tweet April 12 that the NRO awarded the stage 2 contract in February. “This award allows us to quickly scale RF data to meet U.S. government mission needs.”

Maxar Technologies, an Earth imaging company based in Westminster, Colorado, started a new RF data business after acquiring Aurora Insight, a Denver startup that deploys RF sensors at fixed sites, on vehicles, aircraft and on satellites to measure the RF environment. It has already launched two cubesats and plans to launch a third cubesat later this year as part of Maxar. 

“The stage 2 option provides Maxar the opportunity to demonstrate real-world performance of its commercial RF constellation to support U.S. government missions,” the company said April 13. 

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...