Space Force seeks proposals for Project Apollo technology hub

WASHINGTON — The Space Force is taking applications from companies and universities for the first round of space domain awareness projects at its Colorado Springs, Colorado-based technology hub, Project Apollo.

The technology accelerator, focused on improving the service’s ability to identify and track objects in space, will kick off its first three-month innovation cycle Oct. 26. The initial projects will get after capability gaps in three areas: space launch custody, object identification and decision aids.

“Project Apollo aims to fill those gaps quickly by providing a tools- and data-rich ‘sandbox’ for industry, academia and government to quickly formulate, test and prove solutions,” Space Systems Command said in an Oct. 10 statement.

In the area of space launch custody, the service is interested in capabilities that use unclassified and commercially available data to quickly detect a space launch, predict its orbit and trajectory and pass that information to a sensor that can then track that object. Object identification involves using things like behavior, frequency and radar emissions and orbital data to detect space objects.

Project Apollo is also focused on capabilities that can take data gathered through launch custody and object analysis and provide it to decision-makers in a simple and intuitive manner. These “decision aids” should require minimal training and help users make quick decisions about the implications of engaging a potential threat.

Maintaining insight about what’s happening in orbit is a top priority for the Space Force. The service maintains a network of ground and in-space radars and sensors aimed at supporting that mission, but they lack cohesion. A Defense Department space strategy review released last month highlighted these “stovepiped systems” as a barrier to creating a “comprehensive understanding of the complex and congested space operational environment.”

“In an increasingly dynamic and congested space domain, [space domain awareness] requires an integrated sensor system that leverages DoD, other U.S. Government, and international and commercial partner services,” according to the September report.

Project Apollo is one of the Space Force’s two Tools, Applications and Processing, or TAP Labs. The first of those labs is located Boulder, Colorado, and is focused on battlespace awareness and missile detection.

The intent is to drive collaboration among various agencies and institutions and use that work to quickly field new capabilities.

To date, the Project Apollo hub is partnered with Mitre Corp., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Aerospace Corp. and the Space Force’s Supra Coder initiative, which supports data and coding within the service.