The Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) announced today that NorSat-3, a 15-kilogram microsatellite, has been ordered by the Norwegian Space Centre, and that construction is well underway. NorSat-3 follows from the highly successful NorSat-1 and NorSat-2 satellites also built by SFL.
NorSat-3 will carry an experimental navigation radar detector to augment ship detection capabilities from its Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver. NorSat-3 will add another satellite to Norway’s assets in space – four in total so far, all producing data related to maritime traffic monitoring. Combining a navigation radar detector and AIS receiver will potentially provide much better maritime awareness for the Norwegian Coastal Administration, Armed Forces and other maritime authorities.
The satellite is funded by the Norwegian Coastal Administration and managed by the Norwegian Space Centre. The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) is leading the development of the radar detector payload which is funded by the Ministry of Defence. NorSat-3 is a civilian satellite designed to capture signals from civilian navigation radar.
Automatic Identification System (AIS) message reception alone may not provide a complete picture of maritime traffic. The problem of missing or manipulated AIS messages can only be addressed through the use of supplemental sensing technology. In the case of NorSat-3, a navigation radar detector provides some supplemental support for more accurate ship detection and identification. Detections of navigation radar from ships will provide the ability to verify the accuracy of received AIS messages and also the ability to detect ships whose AIS messages have not been received.
NorSat-3 represents another barrier breaking, paradigm-shifting advance in smaller satellites using SFL’s Next-generation Earth Monitoring and Observation (NEMO) platform.
NorSat-1 and -2
SFL built the NorSat-1 and -2 microsatellites on behalf of the Norwegian Space Centre with support from the Norwegian Coastal Authority, Space Norway, and the European Space Agency. The two microsatellites were launched on July 14, 2017. Each microsatellite weighs approximately 15 kilograms with main body dimensions of 20x30x40cm.
NorSat-1 and -2 carry state-of-the-art Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers built by Kongsberg Seatex to acquire messages from maritime vessels. In addition, NorSat-2 has a VHF Data Exchange (VDE) payload that enables higher bandwidth two-way communication with ships. Adding VDE enables increased messaging capacity, better reliability of message delivery, and increased range of ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication beyond direct line of sight.