Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

ISS Tracks Months-Long Voyages Of Ships At Sea

An example of ship tracking made possible using space-based AIS that is not possible using its ground-based equivalent. The track is colour coded in time, ranging through red, blue and yellow with increasing time.

The ship in this example has been tracked for the entire duration of the first NORAIS operational period: red dots indicate ship position in June, green dots indicate ship position in July, blue dots indicate ship position in August and yellow dots indicate ship position in September. The one red dot off the coast of Africa is due to a clock reset on NORAIS.

From the static AIS messahes received, the ship reported its destination as Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina, then San Vicente, Quintero and Talcahuanco in Chile, back to Comodoro Rivadavia, then back to Talcahuano and Quintero, onto Rio de Janeiro and Angra Dos Reis in Brazil, across to Sines in Portual and then down to Qua Iboe in Nigeria, and this corresponds well to the track followed. Credits: ESA/FFI
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (ESA) Dec 10, 2010
ESA's experimental ship detector on the International Space Station has pinpointed more than 60 000 ocean-going vessels so far. It has been able to follow the routes of individual ships for months at a time.

Hosted by Europe's Columbus research module on the International Space Station (ISS), and activated on 1 June, the tracking system picks up Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals, more usually employed by port authorities and coastguards to keep tabs on local ship traffic. All international vessels, passenger carriers and cargo ships above 300 tonnes are mandated to carry AIS VHF-radio transponders.

"AIS messages are designed to be used only on a local basis, with a range of 50 km or so to the horizon," explained Torkild Eriksen of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), which built the NORAIS receiver in collaboration with Kongsberg Seatex.

"Instead, we are picking them up from 350 km in orbit, when they might have travelled up to 2000 km. Our receiver, therefore, had to be designed for extreme sensitivity to detect such weak signals."

This initiative, funded by ESA, is part of the trend of using the ISS as a platform to observe and monitor our planet. The Station's orbital inclination and altitude are different to those of most observation satellites, offering other ground patterns over about 95% of the population.

"Operating from space, we have been able to track ships for long periods as they cross the ocean," explained Andreas-Nordomo Skauen of FFI. Nearly 30 million AIS messages were received in only four months from more than 60 000 different transmitters.

The results give an overview of the ship traffic beneath the Station's orbit, with coverage extending as far as polar latitudes.

A wide field of view
"Over the four-month period," added Mr Skauen, "we watched one ship travel from the western Pacific to Argentina then over to Europe and down to Africa, picking up its AIS signal from two to seven times per day, depending on latitude.

"So we can reveal exactly where a vessel has been in the marine environment, information that would be very useful to port, fisheries and marine authorities."

From the Station's orbit, the NORAIS receiver has a maximum 4400 km-diameter field of view. Signal detection is easiest when vessels are far apart in open water. In the busiest stretches of water such as the English Channel, North Sea and Malacca Straits, AIS signals swamp each other, and vessels get lost in the crowd.

"This is not a problem, however, as these particular areas are already well covered by coastal base stations," explained Mr Eriksen. "This system's usefulness is its global reach."

The Vessel ID System on Columbus has run on a largely automated basis with weekly instructions uploaded via Norway's national User Support Operations Centre, part of an ESA-wide network serving ISS experimenters.

"We surveyed both land and ocean, and will pass our findings to the International Telecommunications Union and International Maritime Organisation as they consider introducing these new bands," said Mr Eriksen.

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
Station at NASA
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Station News at Space-Travel.Com

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Busy Day For ISS Commander
Houston TX (SPX) Dec 09, 2010
Commander Scott Kelly sent down congratulations to the SpaceX team after Mission Control informed him of the Falcon 9's successful launch into orbit Wednesday morning. This was the first demonstration flight of the commercial spacecraft designed with the goal of carrying humans into space. Kelly continued work with the Capillary Flow Experiment. He set up a camcorder and lighting gear that ... read more

The Flight Of The Dragon

ISRO To Launch New Satellite On December 20

NASA, SpaceX giddy over historic orbit launch

SpaceX Dragon Does Two Orbits Before Pacific Splashdown

The Three Ages Of Mars

Wind And Water Have Shaped Schiaparelli On Mars

Odyssey Orbiter Nears Martian Longevity Record

Drilling For The Future Of Science

Robotic Excavations Could Help Get Helium 3 From Moon To Earth

A Softer Landing on the Moon

Neptec Wins Canadian Space Agency Contract To Develop A New Generation Of Lunar Rovers

Mission to far side of moon proposed

Kuiper Belt Of Many Colors

Reaching The Mid-Mission Milestone On The Way To Pluto

New Horizons Student Dust Counter Instrument Breaks Distance Record

Nitrogen Methane Dominate Icy Surface Of Eris

NASA Scientists Theorize Final Growth Spurt For Planets

NASA's Spitzer Reveals First Carbon-Rich Planet

Astronomers Detect First Carbon-Rich Exoplanet

Astronomers Discover New Planet In Planetary System Very Similar To Our Own

Brazil launches rocket into orbit

New JPL Workers Shed Training Wheels For Rocket Launch

Fueling error blamed in loss of satellites

Russia probes navigation system spending after crash

China Builds Theme Park In Spaceport

Tiangong Space Station Plans Progessing

China-Made Satellite Keeps Remote Areas In Venezuela Connected

Optis Software To Optimize Chinese Satellite Design

Study: Earth's precious metals from space

MegaPhase RF Cables Enable Conclusion Of Seven-Year Deep Space Program

Dawn On A Smooth And Steady Course

NASA Spacecraft Burns For Another Comet Flyby

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement