Industry asked to develop automated data fusion for military space surveillance using commercial satellites

Jan. 31, 2024
Space-WATCH aims to capitalize on sensors in low-Earth orbit on commercial and government satellites that can help detect and track nearby objects.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry find ways of using commercial satellites to provide real-time persistent tracking of all objects in low-Earth orbit and notify military commanders when something's not normal so they can take appropriate action.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a solicitation (DARPA-PS-24-04) last week for a portion of the Space-domain Wide Area Tracking and Characterization (Space-WATCH) project called Real-Time Automated Data Fusion & Exploitation."

Space-WATCH aims to capitalize on the enormous volume of low-cost sensors in low-Earth orbit on commercial and government satellites that can help detect and track nearby objects, identify when an unexpected event occurs, and quickly provide details to operators who can direct appropriate action.

Space-WATCH seeks to overcome the limitations of ground-based sensors by moving observations from the ground to constellations of satellites in low-Earth orbit and using commercial satellites for space surveillance a fraction of the cost of the existing ground-based approaches.

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This solicitation asks industry to submit abstracts for the Space-WATCH program's second technical area: real-time automated data fusion and exploitation to develop data service applications to deduce, curate, and fuse sensor data.

Space-WATCH will explore an alternative revenue to commercial satellite operators interested in selling the situational awareness data they collect as a part of their routine mission.

To accomplish this, Space-WATCH consists of three major components: two separate technical areas and a working group. The first technical area is a wide-area tracking layer of commercially hosted sensors. The second technical area is a real-time automated data fusion and assessment capability that will ingest, process, and validate data collected from the first technical area.

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The working group will develop a dynamically priced, data-as-a-service marketplace based on the two technical areas to sell collected data to the government.

Commercially hosted sensing and detection performers use their existing or modified sensors on orbit to observe other satellites and then sell those observations as a data-as-a-service product. Real-time automated data fusion and exploitation will help provide finished products to operators, and feed back results into the marketplace to adjust the pricing model.

The primary goals of real-time automated data fusion & exploitation are to produce meaningful alerts quickly to end users and to create space domain awareness that enables protection of on-orbit assets in a dynamic and evolving environment.

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Performers will curate and process the high-velocity heterogeneous data being generated from space, and tell users about changes and events in low-Earth orbit. The objective is to track patterns of life, monitor space missions of all types, and detect threats.

Companies interested in participating in the Real-Time Automated Data Fusion & Exploitation portion of Space-WATCH should email unclassified abstracts no later than 8 Feb. 2024 to [email protected]. Those submitting promising abstracts may be invited to give oral presentations.

Email questions or concerns to DARPA at [email protected]. More information is online at

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