6 Jan 2011 – The Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt, or “FFI” in Norwegian) has commissioned SFL to deliver a second ship-tracking satellite, AISSat-2, following the success of the first Norwegian satellite built by SFL, AISSat-1. AISSat-1, a seven-kilogram, 20x20x20cm satellite designed and built by SFL for FFI was launched on 12 July 2010 and carries an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver built by Kongsberg Seatex of Norway. “Within one day after launch, AISSat-1 was detecting ships in Norwegian waters. A press release was issued with a graphic illustrating ship locations captured by the satellite the next day,” says Dr. Robert E. Zee, SFL Director. “We were, of course, very excited and happy at the rapid acquisition of data so soon after launch.”
AISSat-1 demonstrates SFL’s advanced nanosatellite technology and is capable of three-axis inertial attitude control. Pointing accuracies are on the order of 1-2 degrees. The attitude control system is enabled by reaction wheels, sun sensors, magnetometer and magnetorquers. The same core attitude control system will be used by the six BRITE satellites which will also incorporate a star tracker for arcminute-level pointing. “SFL has been among the first, if not the first to demonstrate accurate three-axis attitude control on a nanosatellite,” says Zee. “Often people wonder if they should take nanosatellites seriously because they are so small and limited in power. To the untrained eye they don’t look very useful, and are even thought of as easy-to-build toys. What people don’t immediately realize is that building a high performance nanosatellite is often much more challenging than building a larger satellite. SFL has advanced the technology to the point where one can implement an important and challenging space mission on a tiny satellite. We are seeing more and more applications opening up given the emerging capabilities of nanosatellites.”
AISSat-2 will be Norway’s second satellite, but developed on a shorter schedule given its identical design to AISSat-1. The purpose of the satellite will be to provide increased coverage and act as a backup to AISSat-1. The satellite should be ready for launch by early 2012.