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Canada’s ExactEarth Doubles Annual Revenue, Touts Nearly 100 Million Daily Ship ID Messages

PARIS — Canadian satellite maritime vessel-tracking company exactEarth Ltd. said Dec. 31 its revenue doubled in the 12 months ending Oct. 31, to 9.7 million Canadian dollars ($9.8 million), and that it now delivers nearly 100 million messages on ship identification per day.

Cambridge, Ontario-based exactEarth, owned by Com Dev of Canada and Hisdesat of Spain, said its backlog as of Oct. 31 stood at 13.6 million Canadian dollars. The company said it has a customer set of more than 50 institutions around the world.

The exactEarth satellites, led by a new-generation spacecraft launched in July, take readings from automatic identification system (AIS) terminals that all ships above a certain weight class are obliged to carry under International Maritime Organization rules.

AIS terminals communicate ship identity, heading and cargo data to ground-based antennas to advise coastal authorities about arriving traffic. Beyond a certain distance, these antennas cannot read the signals, which is where satellite-based AIS comes in.

The company has more of its latest-generation satellite AIS terminals planned for launch in 2013, one aboard the Canadian M3M satellite and the other on the Spanish Paz radar Earth observation satellite.

Canada’s next-generation Radarsat Constellation Mission, whose in-service date remains unclear because of interrupted funding, is also expected to carry AIS gear for exactEarth.

Orbcomm of Fort Lee, N.J., is building a similar satellite AIS system with its second-generation constellation — and by using smaller spacecraft launched to provide interim service until Orbcomm’s full constellation is launched aboard Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Falcon 9 rockets. The launches are scheduled to start in 2013.

Orbcomm has said its satellite AIS business, which is a sideshow to its main business of providing machine-to-machine communications, ultimately could generate $11 million or so in annual revenue.

The near-term prospects of both Orbcomm and exactEarth recently were improved when the 20-nation European Space Agency did not approve the construction of a high-performance AIS satellite that was designed to meet the specifications of the European Maritime Safety Agency. The agency did agree to fund a smaller AIS satellite and an AIS data center, but the agency’s decision to bypass the high-performance satellite was seen by some officials as good news for exactEarth and Orbcomm.

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