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USAF awards Rhea Space Activity with LUNINT contract

In April the US Air Force (USAF) awarded Washington DC-based Rhea Space Activity (RSA) a Phase 1 contract for collecting and disseminating lunaspatial intelligence (LUNINT) – meaning activity in cislunar space, as well as on the lunar surface. Sabre Astronautics is RSA’s project partner in the contract.

An RSA spokesperson told Jane’s the USD50,000 Phase 1 contract has a three-month performance period.

Earth-Moon system depicting cis lunar space.

RSA is to develop a LUNINT dashboard, a three-dimensional situational awareness portal that will derive co-ordinates of notable objects in lunar orbits and on the lunar surface. In addition to the dashboard, RSA will suggest optimum satellite constellation architecture to monitor cislunar spacecraft in support of US space domain awareness objectives.

Saber Astronautics, operating facilities in Colorado and Australia, will be integrating RSA’s LUNINT software solution into its Space Cockpit virtual reality space operations centre. Space Cockpit is a mission control software suite that enables visualising the local space environment (in this case cislunar space), make decisions, and manage a large number of space objects.

Cameo Lance, an RSA physicist, said the development of LUNINT was inevitable as the US armed forces seek to expand capabilities beyond geosynchronous orbit. Lance said in a statement that the company has recently seen a significant uptick of spacecraft headed to cislunar space by US near peer competitors. She noted China’s Chang’e 4 mission successfully landing a probe on the far side of the Moon, and China’s use of a communication satellite placed at the Earth-Moon L2 point for relaying communications to Earth.

A depiction of a satellite in lunar orbit imaging the lunar surface.

Shawn Usman, an astrophysicist and RSA founder, told Jane’s that LUNINT capabilities will be derived from space and ground based electro optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) based imagery, as well as from signals information.

The Space Cockpit virtual reality space operations center.

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