Developing of the Norwegian NorSat-3

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The NorSat-3 princip. Illustration Space Flight Laboratory at the Canadian University of Toronto, Institute for Aerospace Studies.

With four small satellites monitoring the water-born traffic already in service, Norway has started working on the fifth satellite, NorSat-3. Traffic along the Norwegian coast is already immense and is expected to increase over the next years. This due to increasing traffic through lesser ice in the North East Passage and increasing oil and gas production in the Barents Sea, and other Nordic areas.

Using satellites in order to monitor this traffic is a very well suitable tool, and in the recent years, Norway has gained an appropriate survey of that particular traffic, as well as knowledge about using the tool. The four satellites already in space use signals from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) onboard the vessels to monitor the traffic. However, many smaller vessels do not have the AIS system on-board, in addition, technical problems may occur to interfere and even manipulate the signal. Until recently, these boats have been “under the radar”. On-board the new satellite, there is an experimental radar detector whose function is monitoring and possibly identifying other ship using signals from the navigation radar on-board. Navigation radars are obligatory in all boats, irrespective of size.

Thus, the new satellite, in addition to the AIS detector, will have an experimental Radar Detector onboard. All ships have a navigation radar, fixed by law, and the satellite can detect important signals. Together with the AIS receiver, the satellite will have two sources that can be received and handled.

The project carried out a successful Preliminary Design Review in December 2017, and the project is now on track for a launch in 2019.

The two fist satellites to monitor the ocean traffic, AISSat-1 and -2 were launched in 2010 and 2014, designed to test some key technologies for the system and they were subsequently followed by NorSat-1 and -2, in the summer of 2017. These two satellites were much more effective and detected 60 – 70% more ships than the forerunners. The aim with the next satellite is to detect even more ships, small ship that do not send AIS signals, and also ships that do not send any signals. The aim is also that they successfully will manipulate the signals, for different reasons.

The satellites were built at the Space Flight Laboratory at the Canadian University of Toronto, Institute for Aerospace Studies. The institute also built the earlier NorSat-1 and 2, gaining great knowledge and experiences in building small and cost-effective satellites.



The International Maritime Organization’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea requires AIS to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with 300 or more gross tonnage (GT), and all passenger ships regardless of size. (Wikipedia)


Featured image: NordicSpace