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Norwegian Space Center Orders New AIS Microsatellite

By Kendall Russell | January 12, 2018
Design concept for NorSat 3. Photo: SFL.

Design concept for NorSat 3. Photo: SFL.

The Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) announced the Norwegian Space Center has ordered a new, 15 kg microsatellite satellite called NorSat 3. Construction is well underway at SFL’s manufacturing facility at the University of Toronto.

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, said the Norwegian Space Center. NorSat 3 is a civilian satellite designed to capture signals from civilian navigation radar.

The satellite is funded by the Norwegian Coastal Administration and managed by the Norwegian Space Center. The Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) is leading the development of the radar detector payload, which is funded by the Ministry of Defense.

According to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, 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.