Array Labs Awarded Air Force Contract to Demonstrate Formation Flight Technology

January 18, 2024
Palo Alto, CA

Array Labs has won an AFWERX contract to further develop and fly a custom protective coating for space vehicles. Launching in the first half of this year, Array's first mission will demonstrate the coating's applications for advanced formation flight.

PALO ALTO, Jan. 18, 2024 – Array Labs, the leading 3D imaging company, today announced its recent contract win with AFWERX, a program of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). The contract supports Array’s development of specialized satellite coatings that have demonstrated protective qualities and the potential to reduce conventional propulsion requirements on orbit.  

Array Labs is pioneering the use of dozens of distributed, cooperative radar cubesats, flying in precise formation to create a giant synthetic antenna aperture for high-resolution, high-revisit 3D mapping of Earth. The AFWERX award enables further R&D and marks a significant step in Array's development of advanced formation flight and resilient space technologies. 

Leveraging unique material science innovations, Array Labs has developed a coating that could provide resistance to a perennial atmospheric challenge faced by space vehicles – atomic oxygen erosion. The coating has been put through its paces at a state-of-the-art aerospace environmental testing facility, with the space weathering experiments yielding highly promising results. 

The coating could extend the useful life of space systems in low Earth orbit (LEO). In addition, the material is being evaluated as a method for satellites to maneuver more efficiently and cost-effectively, by generating lift, which would substantially reduce on-orbit propulsion requirements for many LEO smallsat missions. 

This technology not only stands to support Array’s formation-flying satellite clusters, it also aligns with the Pentagon’s call for more resilient space capabilities. 

“A first-of-its-kind commercial constellation demands first-principles thinking. Our latest coating shows how we put this philosophy into practice, and provides a sneak peek into the new capabilities we’re assembling for our satellite clusters,” Andrew Peterson, CEO and Chief Engineer at Array Labs, stated.

“Partnering with the United States Air Force is a pivotal step in our journey," Peterson said. "We’re thrilled to have their support as we prepare to launch our first mission, study the coating’s performance in space, and continue executing towards Array Labs’ first formation flight.”

Over the course of the contract, which is already underway, Array Labs will refine the coating, conduct further ground tests, and finalize plans to demonstrate the technology on orbit in the first half of 2024.

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

About Array Labs

Array Labs is creating the first living, breathing 3D atlas of Earth, by building and flying orbital rings of tiny, cheap radar cubesats. Array’s first orbital ring will be the largest space-based sensor ever built, with continental-scale coverage footprints, two-week Earth remaps at launch, and native collection of very high-resolution 3D imagery (20cm x 20cm x 5cm). Array’s ambition is to scale to multiple space swarms and sub-daily remaps, providing a never-before-seen, next-to-no latency 3D view of our planet, delivered by space systems with far greater cost efficiencies than conventional 2D-imaging constellations flying today.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit

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