Interference on SAR imagery offers tool for OSINT analysis

by Tony Roper

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities on Sentinel-1A/B (S1A/S1B) satellites operated by the European Union's Earth Observation Program – Copernicus – have been used by open-source intelligence (OSINT) analysts since S1A was launched on 3 April 2014. S1B followed on 25 April 2016. SAR analysis has become increasingly popular because of social media and the ability to share findings easily among groups of like-minded OSINT analysts.

The data collected by the satellites can be freely accessed using several platforms such as Copernicus's own Open Data Hub, the Sentinel EO Browser, and Google Earth Engine. This open-source capability makes Sentinel more popular than other subscription-based SAR imagery providers, where the cost of obtaining data can often be outside the budget of an individual or small OSINT group.

The S1A/S1B constellation images the Earth completely every six days, and the two satellites operate 180 degrees apart. They use SAR operating on the central frequency of 5.405 GHz, which is in the C-band radio spectrum of 4–8 GHz; this is commonly known as C-SAR.

A 22 July 2021 screenshot shows Copernicus Sentinel Imagery manipulated using the Google Earth Engine script, 5 GHz Interference Locator (replaced by C-SAR), with the resulting image showing the Swedish Navy's LCR-2020 coastal surveillance radar sites. The radars – evenly spread along the Swedish coast to provide full coverage of air and maritime traffic in the region – operate between 5.4 GHz and 5.9 GHz and show up in most synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery from the S1A/S1B satellites. (Tony Roper)

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Smallsat firm BlackSky goes public

by Marc Selinger

BlackSky, which is fielding a small-satellite constellation to monitor rapid changes on Earth for defence and intelligence agencies and commercial customers, has become a publicly held company, raising USD283 million to fuel its growth, the US-based firm announced on 10 September.

BlackSky altered its ownership status by merging with special purpose acquisition company Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp, which already had a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The combined company has been renamed BlackSky Technology, and its ticker symbol is ‘BKSY'.

BlackSky plans to use the proceeds to expand its workforce, build and launch satellites, and develop more advanced data analytics software. It expects to have 14 satellites on orbit by year's end.

The constellation is scheduled to grow to 23 high-resolution satellites by the end of 2023, providing the ability to monitor “the most important locations on Earth every 60 minutes from dawn to dusk”, according to BlackSky. The company announced in June that it would create a UK office “to address growing international opportunities”.

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AFA 2021: USAF, Lockheed Martin select Collins Aerospace for new C-130J wheel, brakes

by Pat Host

The Collins Aerospace Goodrich C-130 Carbon Brake and Lock Ring Wheel. The company is providing the system to the USAF for 60 C-130Js. (Collins Aerospace)

The US Air Force (USAF) and Lockheed Martin have picked Collins Aerospace to provide boltless wheels and carbon brakes for 60 Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, according to a Collins Aerospace statement.

Collins Aerospace will provide its Goodrich C-130 Carbon Brake and Lock Ring Wheel system as part of this award. It features a two-piece aluminum lock ring wheel that provides for easier maintenance and a lock ring design that eliminates the need for tie bolts.

Collins Aerospace spokesman Al Killeffer said on 14 September, ahead of the Air Force Association's (AFA's) annual conference, that the company will provide approximately 240 wheels and 240 brakes, four per aircraft, as part of this contract. Collins Aerospace will start delivering these new integrated wheel systems in January. Killeffer declined to specify the value of the award.

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AFA 2021: US TRANSCOM awards Rolls-Royce contract for air refuelling management software prototype

by Pat Host

The US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) has awarded Rolls-Royce a USD800,000 contract to demonstrate and continue developing air refuelling asset management software, according to a company statement.

The Rolls-Royce Air Refueling Optimization and Planning System (AROPS) is intended to increase air tanker availability and eliminate inefficiencies caused by disconnected systems and process challenges within a highly complex air refuelling enterprise. Nadine Melind, services executive for Rolls-Royce Digital Services, told Janes on 15 September, ahead of the Air Force Association's (AFA's) annual conference, that this is because the current air refuelling enterprise is a mix of software packages and general communication methods, such as email, mobile phone text messages, spreadsheets, and whiteboards.

The idea is to standardise the toolset to make it faster, more efficient, repeatable, and feature more effective communication, Melind said. Rolls-Royce's AROPS software will be more agile and will optimise assets for mission requirements, she added.

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Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities on Sentinel-1A/B (S1A/S1B) satellites operated by the Eu...

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