The United States Space Force has a problem: Its satellites are being spied on. In February 2020, two Russian satellites got a little too close for comfort when they approached U.S. satellites within 100 miles—a hair’s breadth in the vastness of space. In October 2022, a Chinese craft approached a U.S. craft at a range of just under four miles. And this cat-and-mouse game between geopolitical rivals seems to be picking up in recent years.

But True Anomaly, a two-year-old startup headquartered in Colorado that opened a Centennial manufacturing plant last August, thinks its Jackal satellite, which can capture full-motion video in space, might be just right for the Space Force’s surveillance needs. Jackal gathers intelligence by getting close to other satellites, assists in training missions, and could even use them to inspect other companies’ vehicles, if asked. As far as we know, it’s the first of its kind.

Even Rogers, True Anomaly’s CEO and a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, likes to say he joined the service when space was a peaceful domain but left it when it became a war-fighting one. “I had the opportunity, by virtue of luck and timing, to see that transition, to see why the national security space enterprise and the U.S. government made that designation a reality, to see what Russia and China were building and doing, and to see how unprepared we were as a nation to see the threat posed by our adversaries in space,” Rogers says. He insists that it’s essential for the U.S. to have the kind of technology it needs to defend itself, whether its adversaries’ satellites are equipped with surveillance equipment or nuclear space weapons. It’s also critical to the federal government to be able to identify satellites that are harmless, he says.

Rogers started True Anomaly (which now boasts more than 100 employees) in 2022. In addition to Jackal, it’s created Mosaic (essentially Jackal’s operating system), which uses artificial intelligence to co-pilot multiple craft so that one person can control a fleet of Jackals safely. The Mosaic software caught the eye of the Space Force, which awarded True Anomaly a $17.4 million contract this past September to deliver a suite of applications for tracking man-made objects in orbit and detecting potential threats from adversaries. While the deal doesn’t include the Jackal hardware, True Anomaly hopes the Space Force will eventually be interested in contracting with it to use the satellites—or to purchase them.

True Anomaly dispatched two Jackal satellites into space for a test run on March 4. They rode aboard a SpaceX rocket and detached successfully; now, True Anomaly will spend the next several weeks maneuvering the satellites through space (from Colorado Springs, with mission support in Centennial) to determine if they’re capable of the operations they were built for. If the tests are successful, True Anomaly plans to roll out an entire fleet of satellites.

“If all goes well, I’ll saber a champagne bottle,” Rogers says.

Read more: There’s a New Commercial Space Race Happening, and Colorado Wants to Win It

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and