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AISSat 1, 2, 3


AISSat-1 is a 6 kg Norwegian nanosatellite, being constructed on behalf of government of Norway by UTIAS/SFL, whose primary mission is to investigate the feasibility and performance of a spacecraft-based Automatic Identification System (AIS) sensor in low-Earth orbit as a means of tracking maritime assets, and the integration of space-based AIS data into a national maritime tracking information system. AISSat-1 is intended as both a research and development platform, and a demonstration mission for a larger operational capability.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a self-organizing TMDA radio communication system used for the identification and location of maritime vessels. AIS transponders are required by the International Maritime Organization on all vessels over 300 tonnes and all passenger vessels. Communication is line-of-sight, allowing countries to monitor ships within about 50 km of their shores. A space-based platform allows monitoring of much larger areas, especially in areas that are difficult to monitor through more traditional base station means.

The satellite design is based on the Generic Nanosatellite Bus (GNB), which measures 200 × 200 × 200 mm in size, and includes a full suite of advanced capabilities. This includes:

  • a dual battery, gallium arsenide triple-junction solar cell based power system that includes peak power tracking capabilities;
  • a full 3-axis attitude determination and control system that allows arbitrary inertial or orbit-frame alignment (including nadir, along-track and cross-track);
  • a powerful complement of on-board computer processing systems, include a computer dedicated to payload activities;
  • a flexible TT&C and payload data communication system, allowing for variable and high speed data downlinks to the ground;
  • a large accommodation for payloads, including volume, pass, power, and spacecraft surface area.

The GNB was originally developed for the CanX-3/BRITE and CanX-4/-5 missions, and is now being leveraged for other missions around the world. AISSat-1 represents the first such mission and is a perfect example of the flexibility and versatility of the GNB platform when used for a mission to which it was not originally designed.

The satellite is funded by the Norwegian Space Centre, and the program is managed by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). SFL is providing the spacecraft platform and the AIS VHF antenna, and providing spacecraft-level management, systems engineering, assembly, integration, and test support, and will be responsible for launch and commissioning on orbit, after which the spacecraft will be delivered to FFI for operations. The payload is being developed by Kongsberg Seatex AS in cooperation with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace AS and FFI, and Kongsberg Satellite Services AS is providing the Earth station facility.

The detailed design phase for AISSat-1 has been completed, and the platform is now entering the assembly, integration and test phase. The spacecraft is expected to be launched in mid- to late-2009 into a high inclination, low Earth orbit.

A second, identical satellite called AISSat-2 was ordered in January 2011 to be ready for launch by early 2012. It was finally launched in 2014.

A third copy, AISSat-3 will be launched in 2016.

Nation: Norway
Type / Application: Traffic monitoring
Operator: Norsk Romsenter
Contractors: UTIAS (University of Toronto, Institute for Aerospace Studies) (bus); Kongsberg Seatex (payload)
Equipment: AIS-Receiver
Configuration: Generic Nanosatellite Bus (GNB)
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Lifetime: 6 months
Mass: 6.5 kg
Orbit: 621 km × 639 km, 98.1 (#1); 625 km × 630 km, 98.4 (#2)
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
AISSat 1 2010-035C 12.07.2010 Sr SLP PSLV-CA with Cartosat 2B, AlSat 2A, STUDSAT, TIsat 1
AISSat 2 2014-037G 08.07.2014 Ba LC-31/6 Soyuz-2-1b Fregat-M with Meteor-M 2, Relek, TechDemoSat 1, SkySat 2, DX 1, UKube 1, M3MSat-Dummy
AISSat 3 - 2017 Vo LC-1S Soyuz-2-1b Fregat-M with Meteor-M 2-1, Ionosfera 1, Ionosfera 2, Baumanets 2, Flying Laptop, SCOUT, WNISAT 1R, TechnoSat, NORSAT 1, Flock-2 1, ..., xx, Lemur-2 xx-xx, Lemur-3 xx-xx, SEAM