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Trio of HawkEye 360 formation-flying microsatellites launched for RF geolocation

July 3, 2021  - By

The HawkEye 360 constellation detects and geolocates RF signals for maritime situational awareness, emergency response, national security and spectrum analysis applications.

Cluster 3 satellites fly in formation, joining Clusters 1 and 2. (Artist's rendering: Hawkeye 360)

Cluster 3 satellites fly in formation, joining Clusters 1 and 2. (Artist’s rendering: Hawkeye 360)

HawkEye 360 Inc. announced the successful launch of its Cluster 3 radio frequency geolocation microsatellites built by Space Flight Laboratory (SFL). Carried aboard the June 30 SpaceX Transporter 2 mission, the Cluster 3 formation-flying microsatellites quickly established communication with the company’s satellite operations center.  They join in orbit the HawkEye 360 Cluster 2 and Cluster 1 Pathfinder satellites.

The HawkEye 360 Constellation detects and geolocates RF signals for maritime situational awareness, emergency response, national security and spectrum analysis applications. Cluster 3 significantly expands HawkEye 360’s capacity, and is part of its second generation of advanced RF-sensing satellites.

“With the addition of our second-gen satellites, we’ll offer more frequent, timely and actionable data and insights to our government, commercial and humanitarian partners,” said CEO John Serafini.

“The increased revisit frequency and capacity Cluster 3 brings to our constellation are essential to detecting, characterizing, and understanding the continuously changing RF activity important to our clients,” said Alex Fox, Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing.

Seven more clusters are fully funded and scheduled for launch in 2021 and 2022 to achieve collection revisits as frequent as every 20 minutes, Fox said. “Each cluster will offer new innovations to address a rapidly growing set of requirements needed by our defense, security and commerce clients. We plan on expanding the constellation past the initial 10 clusters to achieve near-persistent monitoring of global RF activity, which will drive even more value and ensure our continued dominance in the industry.”

HawkEye 360 delivers a layer of intelligence to help understand human activity on Earth. The constellation detects, characterizes and precisely geolocates these RF signals from a broad range of emitters, including VHF marine radios, UHF push-to-talk radios, maritime and land-based radar systems, L-band satellite devices and emergency beacons.

By processing and analyzing these RF data, the company delivers actionable insights for national, tactical and homeland security operations, maritime domain awareness, environmental protection and new applications in the commercial sector, the company said.

The HawkEye 360 launch brings to 20 the total number of SFL satellites placed into orbit in less than a year. The Cluster 3 satellites were built on SFL’s 30-kg Defiant microsatellite bus.

HawkEye 360 selected SFL due to the importance of formation flying by multiple satellites for successful RF geolocation. SFL is the acknowledged leader in developing and implementing high-performance attitude control systems that make it possible for relatively low-cost nanosatellites and microsatellites to fly in stable formations while in orbit.

The previous HawkEye 360 satellite clusters built by SFL were the Pathfinder launched in 2018 and Cluster 2 in January. Each Cluster is comprised of three satellites.

Other launches of SFL-built satellites in the past year include missions developed for the Norwegian Space Agency (NOSA) in Norway, the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates, GHGSat Inc. of Canada, Space-SI of Slovenia, and a Canada-based telecommunications company.

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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