This article was published 02/12/2021 at Defense Daily online https://www.defensedaily.com
In an article titled “Montreal Company Looks To Skylark To Provide Timely Space Situational Awareness” Defence Daily reporter Frank Wolfe interviewed NorthStar Earth & Space CEO and Co-Founder Stewart Bain, on NorthStar’s plans to launch the initial three satellites of NorthStar’s “Skylark” SSA constellation.
Of NorthStar’s Skylark constellation, Wolfe wrote, “Such a space-based tracking system could dramatically improve the tracking of space objects and the timeliness of such tracking in low Earth orbit (LEO), medium Earth orbit (MEO), and geosynchronous orbit (GEO).”
Bain spoke of Skylark’s capabilities versus existing systems: “The military refers to it as near-synoptic coverage–near full coverage of space,” Bain said. “We’re not just looking at LEO, MEO or GEO, which is what the ground-based systems do. They see in one orbit or another. We can see all the orbits at the same time and monitor them together. That ability is unheard of. We spent a lot of time developing the algorithms to do it. It’s not in the hardware you do it. It’s in the software.”
The article reviews the significantly improved space surveillance capabilities of Lockheed Martin’s $1.6 billion Space Fence radar system, the primary ground-based space tracking system which achieved initial operational capability on March 27 last year. According to Bain, NorthStar’s Skylark SSA services will deliver a unique space-based perspective to complement and enhance SSA services delivered by Space Fence.
“You’ve got 73 trillion cubic miles of territory to cover between low-Earth orbit all the way up to GEO,” Bain said. “What you’re doing is looking at it through a ‘soda straw’ with current systems that either are telescopes pointing in GEO or LEO ground-based systems that can only see what’s directly above them. Nobody is giving you the perspective of space.”
The article references the scope of the space debris issue, with former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett noting that that “space debris is really a danger to things like our GPS systems. We’ve got to replace those. We’ve got to minimize their vulnerability, and we have to have, as the Space Force will do, space capabilities that will deter others from doing damage to that system upon which so much depends.”
In the context of national defence and security, Bain spoke of NorthStar/Skylark SSA’s capability to comprehensively monitor space, detect events and potential threats. At the U.S. Space Command’s Commercial Sprint Advanced Concept Training exercise, which began in 2019, NorthStar Earth & Space “demonstrated we could pick up [nesting doll satellite] ‘spawning’ events 52 times faster than anybody else, 34 times more accurately,” Bain said.
“When you have superior situational awareness, the strategy of surprise attack is gone,” he said. “What’s happening now is people are getting away with stuff because you can’t see it.”