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Saber Astronautics wins US DoD contract for ‘Sentinel’ space threat detection system

Sydney company Saber Astronautics has received a United States Air Force (USAF) Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract bringing its automated space domain awareness tool, Sentinel, into live operation.

Sentinel will be a key tool managing space traffic in both military and defence as logistical challenges exponentially grow. The number of working satellites in space has doubled in the last three years to 7,500, it is projected to reach 40,000 by the end of the decade. Both civil and military space sectors are yet to see an end-to-end space traffic management system in the market, Sentinel is the first step in establishing such a system.

“The logistical challenge is not just to say where these objects are, but what they are doing,” said Saber’s CEO Dr Jason Held. “The military wants to be able to see threats quickly and respond to them. Civilian organisations want to be able to track, assess, and negotiate spacecraft right-of-way so they can fly safely. This is the beginning of what we see as a genuine path for space traffic management.”

Sentinel provides continuous real time detection of hazardous events in space. Currently, space operators manually search and analyse data to find threats to satellites and understand them. A push toward automation with Sentinel allows operators faster response times in threat detection and greater ability to understand significant and/or abnormal behaviour.

Saber USA Director, Nathan Parrott, explains One of the problems US Space Force (USSF) Guardians have been telling us is that they are drowning in alerts and are overwhelmed in a sea of data that prevents them from effectively identifying, ranking and preparing countermeasures to threats.” Sentinel is an automated system that enables them to curate their own specific alert criteria and allows Guardians to tune their alerts and continuously adapt them as the threat landscape evolves, he added.

Sentinel’s automated threat detection is also gaining importance in civil and commercial space traffic systems, which are evolving independently but still must liaise with their military counterparts. Civil space traffic focuses on safety of flight and deconflicting right of way for spacecraft manoeuvres. The same technology will help operators understand a satellite’s behaviour in a flight plan – a critical capability to overcome space congestion.

Sentinel was trialled in 2021 during live space domain awareness exercises that are held globally with the USSF.

Saber Astronautics currently uses Sentinel within the Responsive Space Operations (RSOC) program. The RSOC is Saber’s next generation mission control centre with nodes located in Colorado and Adelaide, Australia. Both sites combined give a follow-the-sun operational service, with spacecraft owners from the Satellite Communications and Earth Observation markets, as well as increased interest from the US and Australian military, both supporting the RSOC in their host country.  Sentinel will be deployed to USSF operators directly via Saber’s Space CockpitTM program and to commercial operators via the RSOC.

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