European Maritime Agency Taps LuxSpace for AIS Data

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PARIS — LuxSpace will provide satellite-based Automatic Identification System (AIS) data on maritime traffic to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) under a one-year contract valued at up to $625,000 plus options, the Betzdorf, Luxembourg, company announced June 19.

LuxSpace, which is owned by OHB AG of Bremen, Germany, operates two small satellites, Vesselsat 1 and Vesselsat 2, in low Earth orbit. The satellites are used by Orbcomm of Fort Lee, N.J., as part of that company’s AIS business while Orbcomm awaits the launch of its 18 second-generation satellites, all of which will carry AIS transponders.

The satellites collect data broadcast by ships on their whereabouts, heading, cargo and ownership and forward it to maritime authorities.

In a June 19 interview, LuxSpace Managing Director Jochen Harms said LuxSpace and Orbcomm are acting in partnership to fulfill the EMSA contract.

He said the contract is not based on the future Orbcomm satellites but could be expanded once these spacecraft are operational. The second-generation Orbcomm fleet is scheduled for launch aboard Falcon 9 rockets operated by Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif.

A prototype Orbcomm second-generation satellite is scheduled for launch as a piggyback payload aboard the next Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo module to the international space station. The launch is scheduled for later this year, with the remaining Orbcomm satellites to be launched aboard an undetermined number of Falcon 9s in 2013 and 2014.

One Vesselsat satellite is in polar orbit, while the other is in equatorial orbit, a configuration that Harms said delivers higher-frequency revisits of a given area. He said LuxSpace won the EMSA work following a competition with exactEarth Ltd. of Canada, which is owned by Com Dev of Canada and Hispasat of Spain.