Rendering of Starfish Space's Otter Pup prototype vehicle. Credit: Starfish Space

WASHINGTON — The space infrastructure firm Redwire in a planned demonstration later this year will install ExoAnalytic Solutions’ space-tracking software on a navigation camera aboard a satellite in orbit. 

The company is pitching this technology to the military as a security camera that could be installed on satellites to monitor potential hazards.

Machine-vision cameras like the one developed by Redwire are used by spacecraft to navigate and maneuver in proximity to other objects. The company will update the camera with space-tracking algorithms so it can serve as a surveillance camera for satellites, said Dean Bellamy, the company’s executive vice president for national security space.

“We want to upload the same technology that ExoAnalytic is using for their telescopes on the ground and put it on our camera,” he told SpaceNews.

ExoAnalytic is a commercial space monitoring company that operates more than 300 telescopes worldwide.

The vision camera technology was developed by Deep Space Systems, a company that in 2020 became part of Redwire.

Technology to be tested on Starfish vehicle

The demonstration is part of an agreement with Starfish Space, a satellite-servicing startup that is using Redwire’s computer-vision camera in an upcoming demonstration mission. 

Starfish’s servicing prototype vehicle, called Otter Pup, will ride to low Earth orbit on a Launcher Orbiter space tug that will fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission scheduled in June.

The Otter Pup aided by the palm-sized camera will attempt to rendezvous and dock with the Orbiter in a rehearsal of a satellite life-extension mission. After that task is completed, Redwire will upload ExoAnalytic’s space-tracking algorithms to the camera and try to operate it as a space domain awareness sensor.

The sensor will perform star tracking and space object detection, Bellamy said. The camera has on-board processing and storage for two catalogs, one for stars and one for resident space objects.

Two cameras for 360-degree coverage

The camera paired with ExoAnalytic’s software, a product Redwire named Cerebro, would give satellite manufacturers the option to replace star trackers and just use two cameras to provide 360-degree local proximity awareness and attitude control, Bellamy said.

The ephemeris data collected in orbit on the trajectory of resident space objects, he said, could be ingested into the U.S. Space Force’s repository known as the unified data library.

“If you put the cameras on every Space Force mission that goes up,” Bellamy said, “you’d put a safety bubble around every satellite so you would know what’s happening, and you have attribution, characterization, indications and warning if somebody gets close.”

Bellamy did not disclose the price of the Cerebro sensor. He said Redwire estimated that each camera, depending on the configuration, should cost less than 1% of the average price of a satellite in a proliferated constellation.

A version of Redwire’s navigation camera, developed under contract to Lockheed Martin, flew around the moon on NASA’s Orion lunar spacecraft for the Artemis 1 mission.

Redwire’s Argus vision camera

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...