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DARPA seeks new space-based mass targeting software

The Satellite Control Network's largest remote tracking station, operated by the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, at New Boston Space Force Station, New Hampshire. DARPA's Overwatch programme will allow for active tracking of 1,000 targets from space. (US Space Force)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a new satellite-based targeting software, capable of tracking upwards of 1,000 individual terrestrial targets simultaneously from space, once it is mature.

DARPA's Oversight project, as designed, “seeks software solutions to enable autonomous constant custody, or knowledge of target location within accuracies necessary for mission needs” on up to 1,000 individual “targets of interest”, according to an agency overview of the effort. The eventual Oversight tracking software suite will allow the US Armed Forces, as well as allies with access to the software, to mass-track targets “through management of available satellite hardware resources”, the overview stated.

Oversight “will leverage a large body of research about efficiently optimising resources and apply it to use of future and current satellite assets”, DARPA officials wrote in the overview. “Oversight plans to also enable collaboration between satellite and ground-based resources, [while] newly developed algorithms will attempt to detect changing behaviours and dynamically re-task appropriate satellite sensors to track objects at scale,” they added.

The impetus behind the Oversight programme was to operational pressures on US Armed Forces personnel, tasked with conducting space-based target tracking and surveillance. “Current practices require human operators for exquisite satellite solutions, [but] this arrangement does not scale well for the numbers of targets that Oversight is considering,” said the officials in the DARPA programme overview.

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