Consortium Revisits ASAT Launch, One Year Later



On November 15, 2021, months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia performed an anti-satellite missile test (ASAT), destroying one of its own LEO (low-earth orbit) satellites, Cosmos 1408.

The international community immediately recognized the unexpected event as a threat to global security, and identified an urgent need to elevate analytic forecast models to predict future incidents such as this one.

Decision makers need awareness of changes happening on the ground, without compromising the safety of civilians. With a new era of site-specific monitoring capabilities emerging, domain awareness is tangible, and the satellite industry is uniquely equipped to mitigate this risk.

The solution, created by a consortium of organizations, is a tool that combines satellite imagery, space data, and all-source data for governments to enhance and accelerate situational awareness in space.


Join the Conversation

Thursday December 1st – re:Invent Las Vegas
Ursa Space’s President Nicole Robinson speaks in a breakout session centered on Project ARGUS alongside fellow consortium member Peter Wegner, Chief Technology Officer at BlackSky.
Tickets are limited. RSVP here.


Fusing expertise

As the usage of commercially available space-based data has gained popularity in recent years, many organizations are choosing to focus their business models around specific processes within the overall system.

Within the ARGUS consortium, the unique skills and technologies of eight industry-leading organizations solidified this project’s efficacy.

The Project ARGUS dataset, publicly available on AWS Marketplace, offers:

  • Tracking of satellite orbit
  • Calculation of spacecraft conjunctions
  • Simulation of debris fields in space
  • Monitoring of sea vessel traffic
  • Performance of change detection on ground imagery

This synergistic approach allows each company to highlight their greatest strengths. Subsequently packaging that data in a way that enables the public to develop pattern models that could predict activities akin to the ASAT missile launch.

The result of this multi-faceted partnership is improved visualization, simulation, and predictive capacity as a way to analyze and respond to future events.

This Heavy.AI dashboard shows change detection over the cosmodrome in the days leading up to the launch event on November 15, 2021. Ursa Space’s datasets are easily integrated into databases and applications such as Heavy.AI, ArcGIS, and more.

Change detection predictive model

Classifying, identifying, and verifying ground activity generates valuable insights as leading indicators of impending events.

Ursa Space was able to analyze ~80,000 datasets over the course of less than 3 days, yielding unique insights that qualified the events at the cosmodrome leading up to the missile launch.

Ursa Space Systems’s contribution to this effort is an annotated change detection dataset that leverages:

  • ESA’s Sentinel-1 SAR imagery
  • High-resolution SAR data from Ursa Space’s virtual constellation
  • Fusion of multiple proprietary data layers provided by partners


Collaboration over competition

Ursa Space is but one participant in this consortium, though, and the spirit of collaboration is growing in the industry. Gone are the days of the go-it-alone mentality.

Nicole Robinson, President of Ursa Space, remarked of the November 2021 launch event:

Given the significance, it heightened the need to move quickly and provide the best insight to the government and public that we could. That meant cross-sector and cross-industry collaboration.

The need to work interoperably with government and commercial organizations is even more paramount in the years since the Russian ASAT launch, and the Argus collective has risen to the challenge.


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