DARPA Awards Spire Global Contract to Design VLEO Satellite

The contract will leverage Spire’s pioneering Space Services model to design a satellite that could carry the agency’s sensor to very low Earth orbit to improve characterization of the ionosphere

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Spire Global a contract to deliver a preliminary design for a satellite that would carry an array of sensors to very low Earth orbit (VLEO) for in-situ ionosphere measurements.

DARPA made the award under its Ouija program, which will use satellites to quantify and characterize high-frequency (HF) radio wave propagation in the ionosphere to support novel HF capabilities. The ionosphere reaches from the upper edges of Earth’s atmosphere to the lower regions of space.

“Spire is proud to be supporting DARPA’s efforts to advance our understanding of the ionosphere. Spire has built and launched over 150 satellites in the decade since the company was founded, and we’re excited to bring that heritage and experience in ionospheric data collection to this project,” said Kamal Arafeh, Senior Vice President of Sales, Spire. “For innovative programs like Ouija, the Space Services model provides a fast and cost-effective platform to build and scale new technology in space.”

Spire will use its Space Services model, which offers customers “fast and scalable access to space through a subscription model that eliminates the high upfront cost of building and maintaining infrastructure in space,” the company said. “Organizations can leverage Spire’s established space, ground, and web infrastructure to deploy and operate a constellation of satellites, a hosted payload, or a software application in space. Spire handles the end-to-end management, from manufacturing to launch to satellite operations, and the customer operates the system through a web API.”

The DARPA contract comes on the heels of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contract to develop a sensor with hyperspectral microwave sensing technology for a 16U CubeSat to collect near real-time weather observations and improve measurements.