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Author Topic:   More AIS Data Gathering Satellites
jimh posted 12-01-2014 07:29 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
A California company named SPIRE has succeeded in generating a lot of publicity about itself and in raising $29-million in additional investments. The company plans to build nano-satellites and have them launched into low-earth orbits for the purpose of gathering data using various methods, including monitoring of ship automatic identification system (AIS) broadcasts.

SPIRE has launched a total of four nano-satellites and presently has only one in orbit. The satellites are said to be about the size of "a good bottle of California red wine." I assume it must be a rather large bottle.

SPIRE intends their satellites to have only a two-year operational life, which will allow them to constantly improve the technology carried into space. New sensors and new technologies for the satellites will be constantly in development.


Launching of these nano-satellites is often done in large groups from a single rocket launch. The rockets used are often old Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to launch multiple nuclear warheads, now repurposed for launching large collections of small satellites. See: dnepr-launch-updates---2014-cluster-launch.html

In addition to private companies gathering AIS data, nations are launching AIS data gathering satellites. Germany recently put up a new micro-satellite designed to gather AIS data. See -/article/aisat

The German satellite has a rather large, 4-meter long helical high-gain antenna, which gives a nice spot beam pointing downward to the earth, and improves the sensitivity of the AIS receivers.

Hoosier posted 12-01-2014 09:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Figure 7 in the third link cited is interesting. The number of AIS hits inside mainland Asia is fascinating.
jimh posted 12-01-2014 05:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
NORWAY has a couple of AIS satellites in orbit, too. See: -/article/aissat-1

jimh posted 12-01-2014 11:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
ExactEarth has several AIS satellites. Their home page has a message counter that shows almost 6-million AIS messages received each day.

They also have published a nice shipping density map at Density_Map_Small.jpg?t=1417184450526

jimh posted 12-10-2014 08:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For exactEarth, make that FIVE satellites for AIS reception in orbit right now. I find that an amazing situation. A relatively small, private company can put five satellites into orbit just for the purpose of collecting AIS data about ships. As far as I can understand, the product they sell to customers is either an analysis of the data they have collected or the raw data itself. I had no idea that the value of this data--the location of ships in near real time and historical data about their location--could be so valuable. Recall that when AIS was created and mandated to be carried on ships of a certain minimum size, it was with the notion that its purpose was to assist in avoiding collisions. It was not created as a global vessel tracking system, but it seems to have become just that.
jimh posted 12-19-2014 10:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A recent newsletter from exactEarth noted they now have EIGHT satellites in orbit (although two of them appear to be launched by someone else and are sharing data via a licensing agreement), are receiving over 7-million AIS messages per day, and have collected and archived over 4-billion vessel position reports.
jimh posted 02-25-2015 09:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Another AIS data gatherer is FLEETMON SATELLITE AIS. They recently published a rather interesting and extremely well done presentation that shows the density of global ship traffic for a one-week period. If you have one minute and forty seconds to spare, I recommend spending them watching this interesting presentation. The sound track is good, too:

Global ship traffic seen from space
FleetMon Satellite AIS and FleetMon Explorer

Jeff posted 02-25-2015 10:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
I saw this super cool visual illustrating AIS tracking aboard vessels across the globe. It's a beautiful animation.
Buoy posted 02-25-2015 12:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buoy  Send Email to Buoy     
That really is super cool. I guess I always assumed we were tracking ships but had no idea we had visuals of those vessel trackings. Very impressive and thanks for sharing.
jimh posted 02-25-2015 01:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I always assumed we were tracking ships but had no idea we had visuals of those vessel trackings...

The animation is from a for-profit company that is tracking ships via satellite AIS and probably using their own micro-satellites to do it. I am not sure whom you meant by "we", but if you meant the government of the USA, they are really not sharing any of their data, or making presentations like that one.

Note that exactEarth says it collects 7-million AIS messages per day. That's a lot of tracking.

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