Enter the Hunter Satellites Preparing for Space War
Rogers’ final government job was to lead teams within US Space Command that planned how and when to deploy defensive and offensive military space systems. He and his co-founders Dan Brunski, Tom Nichols, and Kyle Zakrzewski, also former Air Force and Space Force officers, “knew the problem better than anyone, grappled with the limitations of technology on a daily basis, and were also frustrated by those limitations.” , says Rogers. Instead of waiting for a big industrial defense company to take care of it, they decided to solve the problem themselves. The use of space weapons by America’s rivals, he says, “is a lot closer than most people would think.”
According to US Security Exchange Commission filings, True Anomaly has already raised over $23 million from investors. These include a December investment by Narya, a venture capital firm co-founded by US Senator JD Vance, a MAGA-leaning Ohio Republican. (Rogers says that True Anomaly itself has no political affiliations.)
The company recently signed a lease for a 35,000-square-foot factory in suburban Denver, Colorado. In addition to manufacturing the Jackal satellites, True Anomaly engineers are designing a cloud-based control system to integrate autonomous agents and human operators, using commercial game engines like Unity to create real-time interactive applications, and developing high-fidelity physics software to do so to assist jackals maneuver in space. True Anomaly has already applied for a trademark covering, among other things, hardware and software for “space-to-space imagery from orbit, rendezvous proximity and target acquisition systems.”
“What’s different about True Anomaly is the way it appears to present its satellite as a tracking system rather than an imaging or information gathering system,” says Kaitlyn Johnson, associate director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “This worries me because it could lead to an unintended escalation. Especially given the founder’s Air Force background, it could be interpreted by our opponents as a military-led company beginning to pursue this capability.”
The company’s first challenge may be keeping its own floating computers intact. “Cooperative RPO is difficult,” says Johnson. “You can see that in the years-long planned demonstrations by Astroscale and Northrop with their maintenance satellites.” A 2005 NASA cooperative RPO mission called DART failed when the spacecraft malfunctioned, collided with its target satellite and was destroyed.
Tracking missions from opposing satellites are likely to be even more risky, says Johnson: “You don’t have the same data that comes from the other satellite. They may not have the charts and diagnostics of what the satellite looks like so you know what you’re about to hit.”
Each orbital collision can create thousands of space debris, each of which could damage other satellites and create even more debris. Researchers fear that the increasing mass of orbital debris will eventually trigger a catastrophic cascade known as Kessler Syndrome. Rogers says collision avoidance is an opportunity “that we’re very closely and aggressively pursuing. We are committed to acting responsibly and sustainably in the space sector.”
Rogers himself is no stranger to risk. Before founding True Anomaly, he founded and ran a crypto hedge fund called Phobos Capital. And before that, he founded a company called 3720 to 1, Inc – a reference to the chances of Han Solo successfully navigating an asteroid field The Empire Strikes Backpursuant to C-3PO.
Whether Rogers’ quest for a satellite company is more likely to succeed or is just another piece of gung-ho sci-fi should be a lot clearer after SpaceX’s rocket launches in October.
Update 3:10 PM ET February 1, 2023: Clarified language surrounding the use of “fire” in a military space context does not historically typically refer to kinetic weapons.
https://www.wired.com/story/true-anomaly-jackal-pursuit-satellites/ Enter the Hunter Satellites Preparing for Space War