Formation-flying microsatellites for RF detection

January 25th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) has successfully launched three formation-flying microsatellites built by SFL under contract to Deep Space Industries for HawkEye 360 Inc. The microsatellites were launched into low Earth orbit on 3 December 2018. The Pathfinder microsatellites will detect and geolocate radio frequency (RF) signals from VHF radios, maritime radar systems, automatic identification system (AIS) beacons, VSAT terminals and emergency beacons. HawkEye 360 will apply advanced RF analytics to this data to help customers assess suspicious vessel activity, survey communication frequency interference, and search for people in distress. Precise formation flying is critical to the HawkEye 360 RF system because the relative positions of each satellite in the constellation must be known to accurately geolocate the transmission sources of the radio frequency signals. For the triangulation to be calculated correctly, each satellite must be located with sufficient precision in space and relative to one another. SFL built the three satellites using its 15 kg NEMO microsatellite bus and incorporated technologies such as a high-performance attitude control system that make on-orbit formation flying possible.

Contact Robert Zee, SFL, info@utias-sfl.net

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