ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite

ExactEarth, a provider of satellite AIS data services for vessel tracking, announced the successful launch of another AIS satellite that will extend its constellation and increase the capacity of its global vessel monitoring service.

The spacecraft, built by SpaceQuest of Fairfax, Virginia, was launched from Russia last Thursday aboard a Dnepr rocket. The addition of this spacecraft will increase the exactEarth constellation to five satellites and improve exactEarth’s AIS message detection performance from space. ExactEarth is based in Cambridge, Ontario.

“The satellite is performing to expectations and we are confident of quickly bringing the asset into operational use,” said Philip Miller, VP of Operations and Engineering at exactEarth.

Automatic Identification System is an automatic tracking system used on ships. It sends GPS, heading and vessel ID to nearby VHF radio towers. When satellites are used to detect AIS signatures, vessels can be tracked in the open ocean, beyond the reach of traditional VHF radio towers.

ORBCOMM’s Next Generation – OG2 satellite is launching 18 OG2 satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9, in December and early 2014. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is building 18 OG2 satellites, with an option to purchase up to 30 additional satellites to augment and upgrade Orbcomm’s existing satellite constellation.

Orbcomm’s 27 current-generation satellites operate for the most part in an 825-kilometer orbit inclined 45 degrees relative to the equator. The second generation will be placed into a 52 degree inclination, an orbit that gives better coverage of northern latitudes to enhance Orbcomm’s AIS maritime coverage.

Each OG2 satellite will be equipped with an enhanced communications payload designed to increase subscriber capacity by up to 12 times over the current Orbcomm satellites. In addition, all OG2 satellites will be designed with Automatic Identification System (AIS) payloads to receive and report transmissions from AIS-equipped maritime vessels.

The current Iridium satellite constellation consists of 66 active satellites and additional spare satellites in case of failure. Each satellite can have four inter-satellite links: two to neighbors fore and aft in the same orbital plane, and two to satellites in neighboring planes to either side.

Iridium NEXT, their second-generation platform, is expected to launch beginning in 2015. It will also consist of 66 satellites, with six in-orbit and nine on-ground spares.

Iridium NEXT will host payloads. Space is now fully allocated to two entities, Aireon for its space-based aircraft surveillance application and Harris Corporation for additional auxiliary payloads. Customers can use a whole satellite’s payload capacity, or just share that capacity with other applications and customers that Iridium brings together.


Satellites purchased under the Iridium Prime program would fly in the same 700-kilometer orbit as the Iridium Next constellation, thereby profiting from Iridium’s intersatellite links and ground infrastructure, explains SpaceNews.

Thales Alenia Space is leading the design and construction of the satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation and will partner with Iridium to provide and produce a new satellite bus for Iridium PRIME, maintaining the inter-satellite crosslink functionality and the ability to fly within the NEXT constellation.

Aireon will use the Iridium NEXT hosted payload space to develop the world’s first space-based global aviation monitoring system.

ADS-B will be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. Enabled by Harris’ 81 space-qualified ADS-B receivers, the system relies on two avionics components—a GPS navigation source and a datalink (ADS-B unit). This allows controllers to guide aircraft into and out of crowded airspace with smaller separation standards than it was previously possible.

In related AIS news, small, lightweight JIB antennas from Northrop Grumman’s Astro Aerospace will help provide Canada’s three RADARSAT Constellation Mission satellites planned for launch in 2018, as part of an Automated Identification System. The new RADARSAT Constellation is being designed for three main uses: Maritime surveillance, Disaster management, and Ecosystem monitoring.

In other space news, SES and SpaceX have announced that the Falcon 9 mission to launch the SES-8 satellite has been delayed to November 28. SES-8, with up to 33 Ku-band transponders, will be co-located with NSS-6 at the orbital location of 95 degrees East to provide growth capacity over Asia-Pacific.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Orbcomm: World’s Largest Container Tracker, ExactEarth Launches AIS Satellite, Space-Based Vessel Tracking, AIS Space Race, Orbcomm’s Space-based AIS Fails, Hackerspace Satellite, Shipboard AIS Fused with Radar, Small Satellite Conference Celebrates 25 Years, Arctic Technology, Tracking Roz, the Ocean Rower, Geosync Spies

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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