Ship Tracking Satellites Detect Space GPS Interference
Since the beginning of 2019, Eagle Eye 360, headquartered in Virginia, has had three microsatellites flying in sun-synchronous polar orbit. The Hawk satellites can detect radio frequency transmissions from the Earth’s surface and, by working as a coordinated cluster, independently determine the location of the source. They are currently being used to detect transmissions from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) devices ships are required to carry and independently geolocate the source so the reported and actual location of the ship can be compared and reported. The system can locate the transmitter with an accuracy of 500m according to the signal. This may improve as Hawkeye builds his horoscope.
The company has already committed to sending five more clusters into space by the end of 2021, with plans to launch an additional cluster by mid-2022. Additional satellite funding is in place thanks to the closing of a Series B round earlier this year. With seven groups of satellites in orbit, the return rate, or how often satellites fly over the same spot on Earth, will jump from about once every 5 hours to about once every 30 minutes.
Each satellite group flies in formation, and this capability is achieved by a specially designed propulsion system. Their software-defined radio can be tuned to the frequency range of 144 MHz to 15 GHz (about VHF to Ku band). The signal power on the ground must be 1 watt or more in order to be detected from space.
Generally, if the signal exceeds 1 watt (150 MHz to 15 GHz), we can detect it and geolocate, process, and analyze the signal. During the first 14 months of operation, Group 1 detected various signals across 11 million unique geographic locations.
All of these functions are provided in fairly small packages. The first three satellites weighed just 15 kilograms each. Starting with Cluster 2 which will jump to 25 to 28 kg each.
The company's initial target market was for services for defense, intelligence, and security applications. Now HawkEye is evaluating providing a new service that can identify the location of GPS jammers.
It’s entirely plausible that HawkEye’s satellites could locate GPS jammers, according to Logan Scott of LS Consulting, an expert on both navigation and telecommunication signals. Scott said he’d been introduced to the technology a couple of years ago at a presentation and, though he’s not done a link analysis, believes it has potential for such a capability."If it's a big jammer. Yes, I'm sure I can see something like that -- you can do some great things.