BAE Systems‘ FAST Labs research and development organisation has been awarded a $7m contract by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the Oversight autonomous satellite target custody programme.

DARPA has is beginning a new project, the DARPA Oversight programme, which aims to develop an autonomous system capable of overseeing a vast number of assets across diverse constellations. Conventional space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) collection methods are often compartmentalised, require significant manpower, and lack the agility to rapidly adapt to emerging space technologies.

In recent years the expansion of on-orbit ISR capabilities is being significantly boosted by the proliferation of low earth orbit satellite constellations. DARPA’s new Oversight programme seeks to maintain observation of a individual sites across multiple satellite constellations using an autonomous system to be developed by BAE.

The project will be a collaboration between DARPA, the US Space Force, and the Space Development Agency to enhance the tactical significance of US space systems, developing technology to be implemented in both tactical-edge satellites and ground stations.

According to Dr. John Grimes, who serves as the director of Small Satellites at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs, the need for greater long-range tracking at a faster pace and larger scope is being propelled by the swift progress of near-peer adversary capabilities. “To meet this requirement, our team includes technical expertise in autonomy, space processing, ISR systems, tactical-edge software development, system integration and architectures, and mission focus.”