An artist’s rendering of one of Capella Space’s synthetic aperture radar satellites.

An artist’s rendering of one of Capella Space’s synthetic aperture radar satellites. U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

Small Firm Tapped to Make Threat Detectors for Satellites

The Space Force’s $32M contract seems to be the kind of award the Pentagon has recently extolled.

A relatively small company is getting a $32 million contract to develop sensors to help protect U.S. and allied satellites from Russian and Chinese spacecraft. The award that appears to exemplify the kind of transaction the Pentagon wants more of: affordable, innovative technology from companies, regardless of size.

Under the Space Force contract, which was awarded on Friday, Arizona-based Geost will finish building a prototype sensor that will monitor objects in geosynchronous orbit. The sensors will be attached to U.S. and possibly allied satellites.

“The government has identified a need for evolutionary or revolutionary space-based [space domain awareness] sensors to augment current and planned systems by providing frequent, timely, assured volume revisit of significant portions of the GEO belt with real-time or near-real-time downlink and processing of collected data,” an October federal contracting notice said of the new sensors.

In recent years, the U.S. has accused Russia of flying its spacecraft suspiciously close to its satellites. Sensors like the ones being developed by Geost would alert Space Force officials on the ground who could reposition the U.S. satellites.

The project is expected to lead into a production program in which Geost will build between three and four new sensors each year. The new sensors are expected to cost less than $10 million each, according to the contracting notice. 

“The objective of the production program will be to develop and demonstrate concepts for low-cost, hosted [space domain awareness] payloads to provide timely, assured volume revisit of the GEO belt,” it states.

Another unique part of the project is that the sensors could be installed on international satellites. Geost, which was acquired by private equity firm ATL Partners last year, specialized in small sensor payloads.