12 January 2011 – The seven-kilogram Norwegian ship tracking satellite, AISSat-1, designed and built by SFL for the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment celebrated six months of successful operations in orbit today. AISSat-1 was launched on 12 July 2010 aboard PSLV-C15. Within one day after launch, the satellite was detecting ships over Norwegian waters and a press release was issued with data from space. “The satellite was collecting Automatic Identification System (AIS) data very soon after launch and before all its systems had been fully commissioned,” says Alex Beattie, SFL’s Project Manager for AISSat-1. “We are extremely pleased at the overall performance of this satellite.”
In the months following launch, all the systems of the satellite were successfully commissioned, including its three-axis attitude control system that enables inertial pointing to within 1 to 2 degrees. The full pointing control demonstrated by AISSat-1 is likely the first time that such pointing performance has been demonstrated on a sub-10 kilogram satellite, or “nanosatellite.” AISSat-1 is based on SFL’s Generic Nanosatellite Bus (GNB), a seven-kilogram, 20x20x20cm satellite that will be the enabling platform for several upcoming missions, including BRITE Constellation and CanX-4&5. “The ability to point our nanosatellites with high accuracy and precision opens the door to many new applications that weren’t previously possible,” remarks Dr. Robert E. Zee, SFL Director. “The pointing capabilities of the GNB, now demonstrated on orbit by AISSat-1 represent an unprecedented milestone achievement for nanosatellites. These tiny satellites are no longer simply for educational missions, but are now able to accomplish targeted missions with miniature instruments at low cost.”
The GNB is also the foundation for the larger NEMO (Nanosatellite for Earth Monitoring and Observation) bus that SFL is developing for clients who want more mass, volume, power and data. The NEMO bus enables 15-kilogram missions with up to 9kg and 45W of peak power available to payloads. The first NEMO mission is an aerosol monitoring mission, NEMO-AM, for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). NEMO is largely based on the heritage components of the GNB. The AISSat-1 accomplishment was therefore an important milestone for the NEMO program.
AISSat-1 was officially “handed over” to the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment late last year. The satellite is presently controlled by Norway using its ground station at Svalbard. SFL continues to provide technical support as needed for the mission. AISSat-1 was recently voted Norway’s top technological achievement for 2010.