WASHINGTON — The Space Force’s Space Systems Command selected several startups and universities to participate in a new accelerator program focused on enhancing space domain awareness — or the ability to detect, characterize and understand activity in space.

The startups include True Anomaly, Katalyst Space Technologies, HEO, DigitalArsenal.io and Intrack Radar Technologies. From academia, the Space Force selected the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Other organizations supporting the project are Lockheed Martin,  MITRE, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

The three-month accelerator kicked off Oct. 28 at the Space Systems Command’s Tools, Applications and Processing (TAP) Lab in Colorado Springs.

‘A complex problem’

The program aims to leverage emerging commercial capabilities to help the Space Force better monitor objects and events in orbit. Space is becoming increasingly congested and contested, said Maj. Sean Allen, who oversees the accelerator. “Space domain awareness is a complex problem and we need industry to help solve it.”

The companies in the accelerator will have access to Space Force subject matter experts and data to help inform their work.

The Space Systems Command opened a TAP lab in 2021 in Boulder focused on the analysis of data from infrared sensor missile-warning satellites. The location in Colorado Springs is a newer facility. “The new TAP Lab will expose data at all classification levels to our industry, academia, government agency and allied partners and provide them with a ‘sand box’ to experiment,” said the commander of Space Systems Command Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein.

The first cohort of the space domain awareness accelerator will focus on three areas: maintain custody of space launches within minutes and predict intermediate and final orbits; classify, identify and evaluate space objects within seconds; provide semi-automated, real-time data to aid decision making.

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...