True Anomaly, a startup backed by U.S. Senator J.D. Vance’s venture capital firm, plans to launch prototypes of the Hunter satellites on a SpaceX flight later this year.
Former U.S. Air Force Major Evan “Jolly” Rogers worries about space war. “Conflict exists on a continuum that starts with competition and eventually leads to full-scale conflict like you see in Ukraine,” he says. He adds that the US is already “in active competition with Russia and China for freedom of action and dominance in the space domain. And it’s evolving very rapidly.”, Wired wrote on the subject.
That’s why on January 26 last year, the former US Air Force major registered True Anomaly to “solve the most complex orbital warfare problems for the US Space Force,” he later tweeted.
According to a recent filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), True Anomaly is already preparing for its first orbital mission. In October, True Anomaly hopes to launch two Jackal “orbital pursuit” spacecraft aboard a SpaceX rocket to low-Earth orbit. The Jackals won’t have weapons, warheads or laser blasters, but they will be able to perform rendezvous proximity operations (RPO) – the ability to maneuver near other satellites and use a battery of sensors.
Rogers’ latest job for the government is to lead teams at U.S. Space Command that plan how and when to deploy defensive and offensive military space systems. He and co-founders Dan Brunski, Tom Nichols and Kyle Zakrzewski, also former Air Force and Space Force officers, “knew the problem better than anyone, faced the limitations of the technology on a daily basis, and were frustrated by those limitations,” Rogers says.
True Anomaly has already raised more than $23 million from investors, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That includes a December investment from Narya, a venture capital firm co-founded by U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican who is a MAGA supporter. (Rogers says True Anomaly itself has no political affiliation.)
Each collision in orbit could result in the formation of thousands of pieces of space junk, each of which could damage other satellites, creating even more debris. Researchers worry that the growth of orbital debris will eventually trigger a catastrophic cascade known as Kessler syndrome.
Rogers himself is no stranger to risk. Prior to founding True Anomaly, he founded and ran a crypto hedge fund called Phobos Capital. And before that, he registered a company called 3720 to 1 – a reference to Han Solo’s chances of successfully navigating an asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back, according to C-3PO.
Whether Rogers’ quest for a satellite enterprise is more likely to succeed, or is just another piece of fiction, will become much clearer after SpaceX’s rocket launch in October.