Vienna, Va.-based space data provider Spire Global (NYSE:SPIR) announced Monday that it will build four, 6U-sized satellites for Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) that will track signals emitted by those who do not want to be tracked, such as smugglers.
SNC, a privately held national security solutions provider based in Sparks, Nev., plans to leverage the “[radio frequency] data services for Earth observation [that] has been a core offering of Spire since we started,” Mark Carhart, Spire Federal director of intelligence community sales, told Connectivity Business News. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Spire already collects the data of vehicles that emit Safety of Life (SoL) signals and use global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signals, he noted. Aircraft and vessels emitting such signals are not hiding.
Surreptitious vehicles may be engaged in illegal activities such as smuggling narcotics, weapons or transshipments of oil, and the goal is not just to locate them, but to track their movements and analyze their activities. Such illegal activities are “quite well-organized,” Carhart said, whereas piracy, for example, is “less organized.”
The satellites comprise a size, weight and power (SWaP)-constrained payload, Carhart said. “A tailored mission typically means that we have to build electronics.”
The satellites are designed to detect “signals of opportunity” in the L-band, 1.2 GHz to 1.8 GHz. The software-defined radios on the satellite will enable the satellite to focus on low-power emissions, such as navigation signals.
Although a launch date has not been disclosed, Spire has a history of taking clients from contract to orbit in less than one year, Carhart said.
“Spire has built an extensive space infrastructure that includes the space segment, communications and the ground segment,” he said. “The infrastructure is flexible and can adapt easily to go after customer signals of interest. We’ve done it repeatedly over many missions.”