Animation shows human-made space objects cataloged by the U.S. Space Force. The red objects are in near-Earth orbits. The green objects are in the cislunar region. Credit: Purdue University/Carolin Frueh
By Sandra Erwin,
Published by SpaceNews, 12 November 2023
The $1.2 million contract is to develop a software tool to track and analyze the Earth-moon region of space
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force awarded Saber Astronautics a $1.2 million contract to develop data visualization software focused on the cislunar region of space, between Earth and the moon’s orbit.
The contract, announced Nov. 10, is a Small Business Technology Transfer Phase 2 award that increases the Space Force’s investment in Saber Astronautics’ “Space Cockpit” visualization platform that the company started developing in 2019.
Headquartered in Australia with U.S. operations in Boulder, Colorado, Saber Astronautics developed Space Cockpit based on a commercial version of the system used by Australia’s space agency and private-sector satellite operators to monitor, fly and diagnose problems in spacecraft.
During the 15-month project, Saber Astronautics will work with Purdue University’s astrodynamics experts on technologies to track and predict the trajectories of satellites traveling in the space between Earth and moon’s orbit.
The vast distance between Earth and the moon, about 238,900 miles, means the region is far less understood than near-Earth orbits that extend out to 24,000 miles above Earth’s surface and where most satellites are deployed.
“The cislunar region is gaining attention from both military and commercial organizations,” said Saber Astronautics’ CEO Jason Held.
“We are delivering a sandbox for modeling cislunar orbits, so operators can plan and analyze trajectories easily between Earth and the moon,” he said. This will be a new feature of the Space Cockpit software.
The Space Cockpit currently has about 2,000 users, said Held. That includes U.S. and allied military space operators and Saber’s mission control centers that fly commercial satellites.
“Anyone with a Space Cockpit license and a data feed will be able to use the cislunar tool,” he said.
These users will have access to a “sandbox environment where they can model threats and plan maneuvers in non-standard orbits,” Held said.
The Space Cockpit system, he explained, ingests data from multiple government and commercial sources. “Naturally we cannot comment on the U.S. Space Force sensors and their capabilities. At this stage the software has algorithms able to analyze non-standard Keplerian orbits.”
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