WASHINGTON — Scout Space, a startup based in Reston, Virginia, is developing a space domain awareness sensor aimed at the military market as the U.S. seeks new ways to monitor and protect its assets in orbit.

The company on April 4 announced it won a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research contract under the SpaceWERX Tactically Responsive Space challenge, in partnership with the Space Systems Command’s Space Safari program office.

Scout’s chief executive Philip Hover-Smoot said the company is using a portion of the funding to accelerate the development of Owl, an optical telescope designed to track objects in space with great detail.  This can be valuable for the military in situations where they need to identify a specific type of satellite or even its functionality.

“The space domain awareness capabilities of the Owl sensor enable flexibility and our ability to quickly respond to meet the mission need,” said Capt. George Eberwine, program manager at Space Safari. “This partnership with Scout is an example of Space Safari’s efforts to accelerate innovation to support future TacRS operations.”

Since it was founded in 2019, the company has developed smaller sensors for space traffic management and other applications in low Earth orbit. The Owl sensor is designed for “more exotic deployment opportunities,” said Hover-Smoot, including geostationary satellites and lunar missions. “It is a large sensor and it has substantial power requirements.”

The Space Force is going to seek new types of space domain awareness technologies, he added, as the U.S. military is prioritizing space surveillance to defend its assets against potential threats from rivals like China and Russia.

“There is a lot of competition and there is a lot of need as every platform that goes to space needs sensors — for safety and security applications as space becomes more congested,” said Hover-Smoot. 

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...