AISSat-1 is a 6 kg Norwegian nanosatellite, being constructed on behalf of government of Norway by UTIAS/SFL, whose primary mission is to investigate the feasibility and performance of a spacecraft-based Automatic Identification System (AIS) sensor in low-Earth orbit as a means of tracking maritime assets, and the integration of space-based AIS data into a national maritime tracking information system. AISSat-1 is intended as both a research and development platform, and a demonstration mission for a larger operational capability.
The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a self-organizing TMDA radiocommunication system used for the identification and location of maritime vessels. AIS transponders are required by the International Maritime Organization on all vessels over 300 tonnes and all passenger vessels. Communication is line-of-sight, allowing countries to monitor ships within about 50 km of their shores. A space-based platform allows monitoring of much larger areas, especially in areas that are difficult to monitor through more traditional base station means.
The satellite design is based on the Generic Nanosatellite Bus (GNB), which measures 200x200x200 mm in size, and includes a full suite of advanced capabilities. This includes:
- a dual battery, gallium arsenide triple-junction solar cell based power system that includes peak power tracking capabilities;
- a full 3-axis attitude determination and control system that allows arbitrary inertial or orbit-frame alignment (including nadir, along-track and cross-track);
- a powerful complement of on-board computer processing systems, include a computer dedicated to payload activities;
- a flexible TT&C and payload data communication system, allowing for variable and high speed data downlinks to the ground;
- a large accommodation for payloads, including volume, pass, power, and spacecraft surface area.
The GNB was originally developed for the BRITE and CanX-4/-5 missions, and is now being leveraged for other missions around the world. AISSat-1 represents the first such mission and is a perfect example of the flexibility and versatility of the GNB platform when used for a mission to which it was not originally designed.
The satellite is funded by the Norwegian Space Centre, and the program is managed by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). SFL is providing the spacecraft platform and the AIS VHF antenna, and providing spacecraft-level management, systems engineering, assembly, integration, and test support, and will be responsible for launch and commissioning on orbit, after which the spacecraft will be delivered to FFI for operations. The payload is being developed by Kongsberg Seatex AS with oversight from FFI. Kongsberg Satellite Services AS is providing the Earth station facility.
The spacecraft has been delivered to the launch site in Sriharikota, India, for launch on board PSLV-C15.