Chinese Long March Rocket Lofts Maritime Satellite

by

A maritime-surveillance satellite launched Jan. 9 aboard a Chinese Long March 4B rocket is healthy in orbit and sending signals as it prepares for service with satellite-messaging company Orbcomm, OHB AG of Germany announced Jan. 10.

Bremen-based OHB is the parent company of Luxembourg-based LuxSpace, which built the 28-kilogram VesselSat 2 satellite. An identical VesselSat 1 was launched in October as a secondary passenger aboard an Indian PSLV rocket.

Both VesselSat satellites were built for Fort Lee, N.J.-based Orbcomm in partial compensation for six Orbcomm satellites that were built in Russia under OHB supervision and failed in orbit following launch in 2008.

Orbcomm will use the two VesselSat satellites to reconstruct the company’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) business with the U.S. Coast Guard and other maritime agencies. Orbcomm’s 18 second-generation satellites will be equipped with AIS terminals as well. These spacecraft are scheduled to begin launching in mid-2012.

AIS payloads permit satellites to monitor maritime traffic and send information on ship location, heading and cargo to coastal authorities from positions that are beyond the reach of ground-based coastal radars.

The Long March 4B, operating from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China’s Shanxi province, carried China’s Ziyuan 3 Earth observation satellite as its main payload.