The first Norwegian satellite is to be launched this summer in order to keep track of maritime activities in the High North. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) is used by ships and Vessel Traffic Services around the world as a short-range coastal traffic system.
Every seagoing ship weighing 300 tonnes or more must be fitted with the technology to allow authorities to track movements and to avoid collisions with other boats. Modern systems also allow ship-to-ship and ship-to-land communication via VHF signals, although this is only currently possible within the field of vision.
An AIS receiver, which will be launched by Norway in August, will extend this range considerably, making maritime and fishing monitoring much easier in the High North. The higher altitude of the satellite and stronger signals allow for observations over larger sea areas.
It is believed that only one antenna will be needed to handle the AIS messages in the area due to the low density of traffic, but the introduction of the Norwegian AISSat-1 will test these predictions. The receiver will be a Canadian platform, built by the University of Toronto, and the satellite will have a life-span of around three years.
AISSAt-1 will be put in place by an Indian rocket from Sriharikota later this year. It will operate in a polar orbit at an altitude of 600km and will be managed by the Norwegian Space Centre. According to the Norway Post, the total cost of the project is estimated at NOK 30 million (USD 4.62 million).