The Air Force awarded Capella Space a $750,000 base contract for high-resolution radar imagery during one of the service’s rapid acquisition events earlier this month.
Capella Space announced Nov. 20 that the Air Force plans to use the company’s sub 0.5 meter synthetic aperture radar imagery for virtual reality software, missile defense and developing predictive intelligence to foresee foreign threats.
“The U.S. Air Force is always working to maintain our leadership as a global technology innovator, and this contract is a testament to that commitment,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, head of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
SAR satellites are unique in their ability to collect imagery despite adverse weather or lighting conditions that make optical sensors useless. Unlike optical sensors, SAR sensors can pick up data on material properties, moisture content, elevation and precise changes and movements. In addition, SAR data can be used to make both 3D recreations or 2D images of 3D objects. Capella plans to launch its first SAR satellite in early 2020 as part of a constellation of 36 satellites that it expects to be operational in 2022.
“Capella will work alongside the U.S. Air Force to foster collaboration and deliver a product that best suits their mission needs,” Dan Brophy, vice president of government services at Capella Space, said in a statement. “Timely SAR data that presents changes on Earth holds tremendous military value, and we will make adaptations to meet unique military requirements. Together with the Air Force, we will define the applications for this data in its hybrid, military and commercial space architecture.”
The contract was awarded during the Air Force’s Space Pitch Days Nov. 5-6, where the Air Force invited small and nontraditional companies to make pitches for their products and solutions in an environment like the television show “Shark Tank.” The Air Force awarded Phase II Small Business Innovative Research contracts on the spot to several companies, including to Capella Space. At the conclusion of this base contract, Capella could win a Phase III contract in 2020.