WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency selected Spire Global to design a small satellite for an experiment to study high-frequency radio signals in the upper layers of the atmosphere, the company announced Nov. 1.

The value of the contract was not disclosed. Spire will design a cubesat to carry a sensor in a very low Earth orbit experiment intended to learn how radio signals behave in the ionosphere, which spans the upper edges of the Earth’s atmosphere to the lower regions of space. 

The design will be a modified version of Spire’s Low Earth Multi-Use Receiver (LEMUR) satellite. Spire operates a constellation of more than 100 LEMUR cubesats equipped with sensors to gather weather data, track ships and airplanes, and provide customers with other space-based services.

The award is part of DARPA’s Ouija program, a project to deploy sensors on satellites to study high-frequency (HF) radio wave propagation in the ionosphere. The program seeks to quantify the space HF noise environment and improve characterization of the ionosphere.

DARPA launched the Ouija program in May and plans to launch several satellites in very low orbits to monitor radio wave propagation. The agency said the study of radio waves in this lower layer of space will help enhance the performance of military weapon systems that rely on radio signals.

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...